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Financial advice in Dutch Sign Language: Alpina and Bear Group join forces

Jan 05, 2024
3 min reading time

From advice on the most appropriate insurance to taking out a mortgage: Alpina is the first financial services company to be accessible by phone through Tolkcontact Teletolk. Interpreter Contact is part of Berengroep, an organization that makes communication accessible to people who are deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired.

Sign language interpreter with client


Your dream home is within reach. Now to find a suitable mortgage. Unaware of your hearing or speech impairment, your advisor calls you to present you with several options. You can't understand him and you feel the time pressure increasing. So how do you make the right decision? For many homebuyers, this may be an unreal scenario. Yet, according to Casper van der Velde of Berengroep, deaf and hard of hearing people run into limitations on a daily basis.

"WhatsApp and chat are not sufficient. By phone, you get an immediate response and are able to have a full and personal conversation. Accessibility, in my view, means being able to participate unimpeded and independently. Such as managing your own financial affairs," said Van der Velde (hearing), who together with founder Pascal Ursinus (deaf) makes accessible communication tools and facilities for the deaf, hard of hearing and people with speech or language impairments.

In addition to Tolkcontact Teletolk, the company offers other products and services to help organizations and (semi)governments become more accessible, such as an online remote interpreter to be deployed via a tablet.

sign language interpreter behind computer


"Financial decisions have a big impact on your life, sometimes for a long time. Good independent advice should therefore be available to everyone. So that our services are also accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing is perfectly logical" says Marc Diks, managing director of marketing & online at Alpina Group.

Engaging Tolkcontact Teletolk works very simply, according to Diks. "Through our website, you choose with one push of a button whether you want to communicate in Dutch Sign Language or text. Then you get to see the interpreter who translates the sign language into spoken language, and vice versa. The beauty of Tolkcontact Teletolk is that there are multiple interpreters available. So you never have to wait."

According to Diks, this service fits Alpina's innovative dna as a financial services provider. "We have taken an important step, but we are not there yet. Right now, for example, we are working on making all our digital assets and services more accessible, based on international standards. This goes beyond just our marketing and ICT departments. Something like that has to be embedded in the entire organization."

Casper van der Velde welcomes the steps taken by financial services provider Alpina. Since the recognition of Dutch Sign Language (NGT) in 2021, the government has a duty to encourage the use of NGT. "It is now up to organizations to take their responsibility. How many people are actually going to use it is not important. It doesn't matter how many people sit in a disabled toilet every month, does it?"

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