There are seven million severely handicapped people living in Germany; about 17 million people are disabled in some way, or chronically ill. The question of equal participation for them is one that affects all of us – and will become more pressing over time. Most disabilities are not present from birth, but occur during a person's lifetime. In an ageing society, the number of disabled people is bound to rise.

With the 2011 National Action Plan for an inclusive society, Germany embarked upon a journey to change everyday culture. The destination: a society in which people with and without disabilities live together and are able to exercise self-determination in all areas of life, at work, in education or social life.

It is a question of having a high personal quality of life, and of being able to live everyday lives without restrictions. This is why many public services and also companies are working on removing physical barriers, for example in train stations, shops, etc. Barrier-free services represent another broad field of action. To reach the goals of the National Action Plan, organisations and support groups for people with disabilities are working together with businesses and civil society to develop sustainable solutions. What will it take to achieve a comprehensive removal of barriers?


Assessibility for everyone

Have you forgotten your glasses?  Broken your leg?  Are you out and about with a pram?  Everyday life can quickly turn into a challenge.  Price tags are illegible, stairs insurmountable, narrow passages impassable.  Sparkasse Trier wants to ensure that all its customers have access to its services and to this end it has been working towards a barrier-free environment for some years.

Miriam Ostermann is familiar with barrier-free access in the city of Trier.

Sparkasse Trier emphasises its priority to offer customers easy access to banking services.

Miriam Ostermann is good at planning. As a wheelchair user, she is aware of her limits. She knows that shopping or going to the cinema might take her a little longer, because in her home town of Trier many of the shops and buildings are not wheelchair-accessible. With one positive exception: the Savings Bank. Most of the branches of Sparkasse Trier can be accessed via ramps or elevators.

The institution has been promoting barrier-free banking services for years. It is important for Sparkasse Trier that every customer has access to all of their services, regardless of disabilities or physical limitations. The operation of cash machines was simplified, and the keys enlarged to help blind or visually impaired customers to feel the functions. The machines were also equipped with larger monitors to significantly increase the legibility of the displayed information. 

There is at least one so-called 'Talking ATM' at each of Sparkasse Trier’s cash machine locations.  These provide audible instructions for all the machine’s functions.  Every branch has headphones available to ensure that all information is delivered privately.  

Of course, visually impaired or blind customers may also use barrier-free online banking facilities.  “These investments are important, also in the light of the demographic change that is taking place in our region and throughout the whole of Germany.  We will continue along this path until we have reached our goal:  barrier-free financial services for all,” declares Dr Peter Späth, Vice-CEO of Sparkasse Trier.  

Sparkasse Trier's exemplary attitude makes it a role model well beyond the financial services sector.  The Chamber of Trade in Trier certified one of the Savings Bank's branches as an “accessible, family and senior citizen-friendly service provider with regard to demographic change”.

Personal advice from Sparkasse Trier: easy to understand, and always on an equal footing.