On January 19, 2017, Gallaudet University partnered with National Disability Institute (NDI) to host an important focus group to learn about the experiences of Deaf individuals with banking and other financial services. Nanette Goodman and Bonnie O’Day, researchers from NDI, facilitated the discussion on banking and money management with 12 Deaf individuals from diverse backgrounds, ages, genders and ethnicities.
Makur Aciek, Assistant Professor from the Department of Business at Gallaudet University welcomed NDI and focus group members by offering his own experiences with the financial industry in Canada. Before coming to Gallaudet, he was part of a unique project in Canada in which community college students with disabilities and Deaf students were hired in the banking business. Mr. Aciek suggested that U.S. banks could become more accessible to the Deaf community if they hired more Deaf employees.
During the two-hour interactive discussion, NDI staff inquired about people’s experiences using banks, ways they get money and how they pay bills. In turn, participants shared various ways they manage money, how they conduct banking transactions and how they access a bank’s services. The participants also shared both positive experiences with banking and financial services, as well as the barriers to using banks and how banks could make their services more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Participants largely agreed that, if more Deaf people worked in banking and financial services, along with some hearing people who know sign language, the industry would be significantly more Deaf-friendly.
In closing, NDI staff relayed to the group that the valuable information shared during the discussion will help expand access to financial services for people who are Deaf and have different types of disabilities. During the coming months, NDI will collect information from other focus groups with individuals with disabilities across the country to help inform the banking industry about how financial services could be more accessible and Deaf-friendly. NDI will also develop educational materials for people with disabilities and the Deaf community about banking, managing money and paying bills.
NDI would like to give special thanks to Emilia A. Chukwuma, C.P.A. Chair & Associate Professor Department of Business, Gallaudet University and Sam Karunya, Founder of Global Deaf Aid Foundation for assisting with the organization of this focus group and location at Gallaudet University.