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Aware Super unaware of members with disabilities

First State Super's planned rebrand to Aware Super last week ran into trouble when the fund failed to disseminate the information in formats accessible to all members.

A First State Super member, who has a hearing impairment, wrote to the fund's chief executive Deanne Stewart asking why the video did not have any closed-captions.

"...You are clearly "unaware" of disabled members," the member said in the email to Stewart.

The member said she had not received any direct communication from the fund regarding the brand change.

Upon reading about it in the news, she tried to look for more information on it from the fund and came upon a video posted on First State Super's Vimeo, which she could not access owing to its lack of closed-captions or an Auslan interpreter.

In response, the fund told Financial Standard it "strive[s] to communicate in an inclusive way" and follows a "multi-channel approach" but could not answer how many of its members have hearing, visual and/or speech impairments.

"This is not information we specifically collect about our members however we do offer a number of services to support members with a disability including access to the National Relay Service for members with visual, hearing or speech impairments," a spokesperson for the fund said in an emailed response.

National Relay Service is a Commonwealth government service that allows people with a hearing and/or speech impairment to conduct phone calls via a mediator. It is not a fund-specific initiative.

"We strive to communicate in an inclusive way. We have a multi-channel approach to member communication and our members can choose how they receive information from us.  We communicate with our members regularly via email and post and we leverage our website and social media channels to keep our members up to date and informed regarding their super," the super fund said.

"Members can speak with us over the phone or meet with us at one of our 43 offices located around the country. We use multimedia such as video which generally includes closed captions for those with a hearing impairment.

"We know we don't always get this right but value the feedback we receive from our members and stakeholders to help us to deliver a better service experience."

When asked how the fund communicated with its member cohort with special needs for significant changes including the early release of super scheme or PMIF/PYSP changes, it pointed to the above methods.

The fund said it started emailing members about the rebrand on July 15, and the neglect in having captions in its rebrand announcement video was caused by its choice of video hosting service.

"Our video content is typically provided through services that provide appropriate closed captions. Our Aware Super brand launch video was posted through a different medium that did not provide this functionality [Vimeo]," the fund said.

"We have now rectified this to ensure that closed captions are available, and it is accessible to all. We will ensure that closed caption functionality is available in our video communications in future. We will also consider other ways we can ensure our communication is as inclusive as possible."

Vimeo is not a new platform for First State Super. Its account has videos going back nearly four years.

Old videos, including one of Stewart talking as WGEA pay ambassador, are still missing closed captions and hence inaccessible to members with hearing impairments.

The fund did not provide a response on why it did not use Auslan interpreters.

Last week, First State Super said it was changing its (and StatePlus's) name to "Aware Super" effective mid-September while VicSuper is to retain its branding and subject to a review in the future.

"This is not a decision we have made lightly, and we consulted with many of our members and stakeholders throughout the process. We wanted to do this once and do it right. We wanted our new name to be much more than a passive description of who we are or what we do," Stewart said in the announcement.

"We wanted a name that holds us accountable, to ourselves and our members. A name that we must live up to each day."

Read more: First State SuperAware SuperDeanne Stewart
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