Submitted by: Empish J. Thomas, CVI’s Public Education Manager
It is one of those dreaded things we all must do every month. For some, it can cause major stress and anxiety. Others, it might be feelings of worry or even apathy. Still others it produces anger, outrage and sadness. So what is this uncomfortable and unhappy task that causes so much discontent? It is paying your bills.
For those of you who are sighted reading this, you already know the stress of paying bills, but add vision loss to the equation. How do you see your paper bills that come in the mail? How do you write checks to your bill collector? How do you balance your checkbook and register accurately? How do you keep up with which bill has been paid and when it was paid? If you asked for sighted help, how do you maintain your dignity, privacy and confidentiality? These are all very important questions that those of us who are blind and visually impaired have to get answered when trying to pay our bills. I am no financial mastermind or guru but here are seven stress-free ways I have found to pay your bills with vision loss.
- If you receive your bills in the mail, you can contact your bill collectors and let them know that you are visually impaired and request an alternative format. Some bill collectors can provide statements in large print and even braille upon request.
- If you use assistive technology you can request that your bills be accessed electronically. Many companies will provide statements via their website where you can view and pay your bill on-line. You can also use your bank or financial institution to pay bills. I personally use my bank to pay all my bills on-line through their bill pay program. It is totally accessible with my screen reader. I create the bills I want to pay by inputting the account number, name and address. Then each month I get an e-mail alert telling me the bill is due. After that I just go to the bank’s bill pay section and pay my bills. The bank then sends the money from my checking account directly to my bill collector. This helps alleviate having to mail checks and having to request sighted help.
- Today, some blind and visually impaired people are taking electronic access a step further and using their smartphone. Many bill collectors and banks have apps that can be accessed to pay your bills on your device.
- If using a computer or smartphone is not for you, you can also pay most bills by phone. All you need is a check number and a routing number—or you can pay by credit card. But keep in mind, some bill collectors might charge an additional processing fee for a payment by phone. So verify before you pay your bill by this method.
- Of course, there is the old fashion way of paying bills by writing your own checks. If you wrote checks prior to vision loss, you can still do so with a check writing guide. Just place the guide over the paper check and fill out the information.
- In some cases, bills may be paid at the place of business. For example, a monthly department store bill can be paid while making a purchase. Gas and electric may be paid in a similar manner.
- One last method for paying bills is to get sighted help. You can ask a sighted friend or family member that you trust to help with paying your bills. You can also request a volunteer from CVI through our Volunteer Services Program. When I first lost my vision I used sighted volunteers and trusted friends to help write checks and pay bills until I was able to be more independent.
In addition to the seven listed above, what stress-free ways have you found to pay your bills? How do you keep your bills organized and in order? Do you use assistive technology, check writing guides or other low vision aids to assist you? Share your suggestions and comments below.