Bank boss gets up to speed on dig­i­tal ac­ces­si­bil­ity op­tions

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB STOCK

YOUR av­er­age reader can get through about 250 words a minute.

That’s pretty fast but noth­ing like the 425 words a minute ANZ’s global head of ac­ces­si­bil­ity Hamish McKen­zie can man­age. And McKen­zie is blind, af­ter los­ing his sight in a car crash in 1996.

McKen­zie, who is based in Aus­tralia, uses screen-read­ing soft­ware to do his job, en­sur­ing the bank’s dig­i­tal chan­nels are as ac­ces­si­ble as pos­si­ble to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

‘‘I can com­fort­ably com­pre­hend at 425 words per minute. I can lis­ten at 550-600, and get the gen­eral gist of what’s go­ing on,’’ he said. This en­abled him to func­tion at a high leve, and he’s not even among the fastest speed-lis­ten­ers in the work­force. ‘‘I know young guys who are lis­ten­ing at 700 words a minute, which sounds like com­plete and ut­ter gib­ber­ish to me,’’ he said.

Speed lis­ten­ing is a skill that takes time to de­velop. ‘‘It’s prob­a­bly a cou­ple of years, to be hon­est,’’ McKen­zie said.

For each in­di­vid­ual it’s a process of di­alling up the speed ev­ery cou­ple of months to find the ‘‘wall’’ – the max­i­mum they can com­fort­ably lis­ten at.

His New Zealand-based ANZ col­league Asima Leone is start­ing on the jour­ney to find his wall.

McKen­zie is aware that ig­no­rance of such life-en­hanc­ing tech­nol­ogy is wide­spread, but isn’t both­ered.

‘‘It’s not like peo­ple are ‘screw all the peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties be­cause they are just a small part of the pop­u­la­tion’ . . . They just don’t know. It’s not mal­ice.’’

But it can re­sult in em­ploy­ment prej­u­dice. A sur­vey of blind and par­tially sighted adults across three coun­tries showed Aus­tralia had the low­est full-time em­ploy­ment rate at 24 per cent, fol­lowed by Canada at 28 per cent, while New Zealand had the high­est with only 32 per cent.

Hamish McKen­zie and ANZ col­league Asima Leone ben­e­fit from speed-lis­ten­ing tech­nol­ogy.

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