At the prodding of the New York Attorney General's Office, HSBC Card Services, Inc., has agreed to draft new policies to accommodate customers with vision and hearing impairments.

Under the agreement, the company will offer customers with disabilities improved communication options and services, as well as a fully accessible Web site. The agreement resolves an investigation triggered by a complaint from a blind credit card holder in New York.

HSBC representatives allegedly told the customer, on numerous occasions, that she could not dispute a charge on her statement unless she completed a written form, which she could not read due to her disability. The attorney general's office reviewed the company's existing policies and training with respect to offering accommodations to customers with disabilities, and concluded that they were insufficient to guarantee full and equal access.

"Failing to provide customers with a way to use services or receive assistance regardless of disability is discriminatory and illegal," said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. "HSBC's willingness to overhaul its policies and systems sets a new precedent in customer service for individuals with disabilities, and I commend the proactive action it's taken today."

The settlement requires HSBC Card Services to make significant changes to its policies and procedures. Specifically, it will:

• Overhaul its website to ensure that customers with disabilities, including those with vision loss and hearing disabilities, can utilize its website and services;

• Offer statements, notices, standardized forms, and informational materials in alternative accessible formats, including on-line HTML versions for customers with visual impairments;

• Make reader services available via its toll-free customer assistance line for customers with visual impairment;

• Train customer service staff on responding to calls placed by customers with hearing or speech impairments through a TDD/TTY or a Telecommunications Relay Service, and monitor such calls for quality assurance purposes;

• Adopt clear and uniform procedures on how to receive, review, track, and promptly respond to accommodation requests; and

• Designate an ADA Coordinator to ensure that the company effectively meets the needs of customers with visual and hearing impairments.

"We applaud Attorney General Cuomo for reaching this groundbreaking agreement to give customers with vision loss options to access their financial information, whether via the web, telephone, or hard copy," said Carl R. Augusto, President & CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. "There is no greater sense of security than knowing you can easily and immediately review information regarding your financial accounts and statements."