Stephanie Khoeung’s white walking cane glides along a sidewalk as she navigates through a Paris suburb. She lost her sight when she was 12 after a series of failed operations.
Now, as an adult, everyday situations are often challenging for Khoeung. Things like buying a sandwich.
Credit cards are not easy for visually impaired people to use because they can’t always see the terminal to know where to insert their card. But the main challenge for blind people is that they can’t confirm whether the price the retailer keys in is accurate.
To alleviate that problem, French tech firm Thales has developed a credit card that talks. It was the French who invented the chip card, with its four-digit-code security system. Thales is also developing a biometric credit card that can read a user’s fingerprint.
Pierre Paladjian, the company’s banking personalization program manager, said the talking card takes this technology one step further.
“This credit card doesn’t only contain a payment chip but another piece of electronics that enables you to connect it to the user’s cellphone,” he said. “This connection enables the reception via Bluetooth of all the information that is displayed on the card payment terminal.”
The smartphone then vocalizes that transaction through a speaker or headphones in French, English or a number of other languages.
“The transaction amount is 25 euros,” the phone uttered as Khoeung completed a transaction.
“It’s useful for visually impaired people like me [to] get confirmation of the amount the cashier says we’re paying because we’re easy to fool,” Khoeung said. “They can tap in any amount, we wouldn’t know.”
Paladjian said an opinion poll carried out with visually impaired people found 9 out of 10 had been victims of shopkeeper fraud or error.
There are around 250 million visually impaired people worldwide, he said.
A bank in Turkey began offering the new card to customers this month. Others in Europe and the Americas are expected to follow soon.