A Question About Chip And PIN Credit Cards And Their Use By The Blind

The time has come for me to renew my credit card. The new one came in the mail late last week, so now all I have to do is get a hand from somebody to activate it. But before I do, a question.

The new one is one of those chip and PIN deals that all the banks are rolling out to increase security until somebody figures out how to beat the system like always happens. I didn’t think a whole lot about this since I’ve already got a chip and PIN bank card and it’s no big deal, but Carin mentioned something the other day that changed that in a hurry.

She thought back to a bit of conversation she’d had with a blind person a while ago. The guy, who from all accounts is no fool, mentioned in passing that he’d gone to the bank and gotten them to deactivate the chip and PIN features on his Visa because of accessibility concerns. Unfortunately the chat had to end before there was a chance to fully explain this and she doesn’t have contact info for him, so now we’re both curious and a tiny bit concerned.

I’ve done some Googling and I’m coming up pretty empty. I found the story of a blind fellow in the UK who was refused his request to sign for a credit card payment twice by the same store even though his bank says he’s allowed to do that, but the closest thing to an access issue is that all PIN pads are a little bit different, which is the same issue there’s been with debit machines everywhere for years and is hardly a deal breaker. The only other things I’m finding are small references to people’s disabilities perhaps making it difficult or impossible to use the pads, but none of those explain what that actually means.

So my questions are these: Did Carin’s chatting companion over react or is there a real problem here? Are all of the chip and PIN credit card processing machines touchscreens no matter who makes them? Are the majority of them? Did the security people invent a new and exciting way to screw with the blind? Is the problem really no different than it’s always been, that not all pads are the same and not all store clerks are created equal?

I’m going to ask the people at the bank and see if that does any good, but if anybody knows, please drop us a note. And feel free to share this around. The more people who see it, the easier it’ll hopefully be to get to the bottom of it and solve the mystery. Thanks in advance for any help. You folks are a resourceful bunch sometimes.

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