Signatures, dystonia and disability

Curious things, banks. I’ve had a tremendous amount of trouble setting up a Business bank account. So much so that I finally sent a letter saying something along the lines of ‘I give up – it’s now taken over three months and you’ve not bothered to get in touch, process my application or treat me seriously’. I’ve thought of running through the FSA, already, and raising the issue publically to highlight the problems peeps like myself can face.

So, here is a tale of frustration in setting up an account. Sure, it may be ranting in nature, but the details are correct…

So why so much difficulty? One of the two main problems is a ‘writer’s dystonia, or a ‘complex, dystonic musician’s/writer’s cramp‘ – perhaps better classed as a ‘complex focal hand dystonia‘.  For me, it means that handwriting is painful, difficult and results in illegible handwriting.  Sudden jerks and spasms frequently also occur when performing other, fine-detail tasks.   There is no cure, and I have been through sessions where a possible muscular retraining is discussed, but botox injections, brain surgery or drugs-with-yet-more-nasty-side-effects are possible interventions – in a big way.

This is complicated, of course, by the continuing issues with the nerves in my right arm anyway: I was heavily right-handed and the TOS and continuing chronic pain makes signatures impossible. Are the two linked? Possibly. However, for these purposes it means every single signature will be grossly different – much more so than ‘normal’, whatever that means.

To make things easier, I have created an electronic version of my signature which I use on letters, etc (so many people have them) – an eStamp, if you like.   However, bank account forms require ‘real’ signatures and the banks do not allow e-signatures or eStamps – they don’t even allow some forms to be completed online or provided in PDF format (which would enable me to edit them and add the eStamp without recourse to a pen). My wife has to fill in the forms. Forget moving with the times, the bank is still so archaic and so uncompromising in its treatment of possible disabilities that, for someone like me, the very first form I signed became my ‘official’ signature and everything else doesn’t count.

Everything else. Think about it. 

The bank then didn’t even bother letting me know there was a problem, just sent a letter ‘ring me’, without letting me know who ‘me’ was, either! When I rang the help desks there was no indication that anyone there knew there was a problem; the business team never had someone in who knew what the problem was when contacted by the help desk; and my personal account contact has, still, never got in touch.  A desultory, single attempt at phoning me may have been made but I live in a difficult reception area. But did they use any other form of contact to let me know what the problem was? No. 

Only in the past few weeks has anything happened, and that after I wrote to make a formal complaint in line with their complaints process.  Even that was poorly handled, the rep failing to ring back when they promised and just sending formal FSA-compliant letters saying things would be resolved eventually (another 12 weeks? Six months to open an account?). Sheesh. 

However, the upshot is that the bank will provide a rubber stamp that can be used to ‘sign’ forms and cheques. I have to write out my signature six times and send it in and they will make a merge.  Sounds good, eh? Aah. Apart from being a painful activity, my signature will be different every time: the result will not only not resemble my eStamp but may well not resemble anything else, either. So I’m still scuppered. I had to argue with the rep: when I pointed out that I could just print off my eStamp six times, anyway, eventually an arrangement was made with the internal (and highly secretive, as far as I can see) ‘Disability Team’ for me to use my eStamp as a model for their stamp.  They would then send me a rubber stamp in three weeks time (12 working days).

Still with me? I’m not sure I am. The whole process has made me very weary and even more cynical about the banks and small businesses.  At one point I was asked ‘Did you make your disability clear on your application form?’  Hmmm… Nope: it didn’t ask, nor did it help, nor warn me that my neural handicap would be a problem in any way.  Further, do you really wish to insist I prefix every single interaction with a corporation with the words ‘I-am-disabled-and-in-this-way’?

Damn right I don’t. I try to minimise the effects of my condition on my life, we try to shape our lives to minimise the impact it has, through both pain management and other processes. Our lifestyle is different, but it harms none, helps us and minimise the disruption of pain and dystonia.  Trumpeting ‘I am disabled’ at every passer-by and in every interaction with someone in a position of authority is a gross intrusion and is destructive of my life: it makes me disabled by definition. The ‘A’ word could even be mentioned.

I just want those have to interact with to be more inclusive, not push me apart. It’s not much to ask that I am allowed to be human.

Hmmm. Perhaps there’s an interesting reflection here on current social issues.

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