Bank boss gets up to speed on digital accessibility options
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.