by Larry Johnson

After a year of conversation, communication and negotiation, I am pleased to report that Guaranty Bank in Texas and California will now provide monthly bank statements in braille for customers who are blind and who specifically request them.

Motivated and encouraged by the successes of attorneys Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian on behalf of ACB members and affiliates across the country to make services of banking institutions fully accessible to customers who are blind or visually impaired, I decided to ask my bank, Guaranty Bank, which has more than 150 offices throughout Texas and California, to begin providing me with my monthly statement in braille.

They balked. They talked. They offered to designate a person in their office to read my statement to me over the phone. My response was that designating an individual at Guaranty Bank to be the "assigned reader" of all print materials I may receive would limit my access to such information. Having other duties, this person obviously could not be conveniently available to read to me whenever I might choose to call. And designating multiple individuals to have this assignment would be a serious infringement of my personal privacy.

We are fortunate that here in San Antonio we have a fully equipped and professionally staffed braille production department within the Education Service Center of Region 20. Early on, I recommended that Guaranty Bank contact this resource for assistance. However, they chose to ignore my suggestion and instead contacted the state agency for the blind and Duxbury, Inc. But neither organization offered a solution. So, finally, after months of delay, bank officials relented and followed my suggestion.

Vivian Seki, head of the braille production department at Region 20, quickly handled the request and prepared a sample braille statement. It came out great. Now I am able to reconcile activity on my accounts independently, and appreciate Guaranty Bank's positive, albeit rather slow, response to my request.

I am happy that Guaranty Bank now joins Bank of America, Bank One, Citibank, LaSalle, Sovereign, Union Bank, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, and Wells Fargo among the growing number of banking institutions that now recognize their responsibility under the law to offer appropriate accessible alternatives to customers with visual impairments who wish to have full and private access to their financial transactions.

Patience and persistence do pay off. If you are a braille user and would love the personal privacy of being able to receive your monthly account statements in braille, ask your bank to do so. It's not a special favor. It's the law.

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