Are we ready to live in a “cashless” society?

Funny question isn’t it? I think most of us reading this would say “yes, I haven’t used cash in ages!” Or “contactless is just so easy now!”. Recently I worked with Which? Who asked me this very question and I realised I don’t think we’re quite ready to be cashless yet… and here’s why…

I love technology, I use it every day. I read media at university and am a self confessed gadget geek. In fact, I’m writing this blog from my phone in Google docs and I’ll pick it up from my laptop and finish editing it later on. So when it comes to the idea of being a “cashless” society, it’s not the fact that everything going digital scares me. It’s that this may unknowingly leave disabled people like me behind.

Some people use cash as a plan B when in the rare occasion their local shop isn’t up to date wi’t contact cards (we’ve all been there int chippy). Or if you’re on a night out and the bar suddenly scribble on the till “sorry, cash only”. But for me, using cash is usually 8/10, plan A. It’s also a safety thing for me, knowing that I’ll never be completely stuck.

When I go to shops, it’s always a stretch to reach the card machine. Have you ever tried to enter your PIN stretching whilst trying to cover it with your other hand? It’s a right work out. Not to mention you get the sympathetic looks and you just want to exit the shop asap. Of course there is contactless which, yes is magical – but there are always times when you need to enter your pin such as if you’re spending over a certain amount or you have used contactless more than 3 times. In this day in age, making 3 purchases is pretty easy to do, right?

Even getting cash is a mission. I know the certain machines in Leeds that I can access. Only trouble now is, we are moving onto touch screens so it’s harder to use something to prod them with (like the corner of my purse for extra arm length!). It’s things like this that I just naturally plan as part of my day and until I worked with Which? I didn’t really think about it.

Now, you maybe thinking, just get someone to do it for you! I see where you’re going with this, but would you give your pin number to someone else? I’m guessing not. Having access to your own money is your own basic right.

So what’s the moral of the story I hear you say… well. I think we are quickly evolving into a very digital society, which is of course exciting. But when it comes to being “cashless”. We need to make sure that no one is left behind. Whether that is disabled people, homeless people, the older generation and anyone else who is not as digital and anyone who doesn’t have access to the internet as freely.

When we are making these digital changes, we need to look at accessibility along the way. Not just physical barriers such as making payment methods portable and not mountain high, but other examples such as, websites having in-depth accessibility features and videos being subtitled. There is a lot that could be thought about whilst we make this evolution. Instead of companies reacting to situations where people have faced a barrier, we need to make these are standard procedures.

So, for me – I think we need more time to prepare before we go fully “cashless”. Let’s not go so quickly that we don’t even notice the people left behind. I’ll be the first one to join in on the digital evolution that is ahead us, but let’s make sure we get it right for everyone ey?

For more information check out Which?’s campaign. What do you think, is this something you’ve thought about before? I’d love to know!


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