If raised type on a business card is a sign of professional stature, then Stephen A. Schutze is a giant among bankers.
His cards are printed in braille.
The 51-year-old NationsBank executive had the cards made up earlier this year, when the Southeast banking named him director of corporate resources for the disabled.
The cards, which have regular as well as braille characters, "make a big impression on people with full vision," Mr Schutze said. "But they're more than symbolic. I come into contract with plenty people who use their hands read, and this is a particular acknowledgement of that fact.
Mr. Schutze is one of a growing of bankers who are devoted exclusively to ensuring that bank facilities are accessible to people with disabilities.
The needs of the disabled have been thrown into the spotlight since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed two years ago. The federal antidiscrimination law seeks to provide disabled people the same access to public facilities enjoyed by others.
Mr. Schutze, a graduate of Ohio Northern University and a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve, was first exposed to the act while serving on the American Bankers Association Retail Payments Services Committee.
He has since been appointed chairman of the association's task force on the law. The panel is engaged in a campaign to amend guidelines that set height and width standards for teller machines.
With more than 15 years of experience in retail banking automation at National Bank of Detroit and then Sovran Bank Corp., Mr. Schutze is most comparable talking about how retail bankers might best accommodate disabled customers. However, he is rapidly becoming as conversant in the needs of disabled employees.
"A lot of attention has fallen on the ATM issues in recent months, but it is important not to lose sight of the the accommodations for the work place," Mr. Schutze said. "The right to work is as important as the right to bank."
As chairman of the ABA task force, Mr. Schutze testified at a public hearing last month that bankers were generally doing a good job of making their facilities accessible to disabled individuals.
Banker's Awareness Rising
However, he is quick to add that man bankers are still confused by some of the provisions of the act - such as the required height for an ATM - and the believes that compliance efforts will improve.
At Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank, Mr. Schutze said, he has seen an increase willingness to spend money on programs to benefit the the disabled. "Requirements and regulations aside," Mr. Schutze said, the disabled law "has made bankers much more aware of the wide range of needs of disabled customers."
"The results of that improved awareness can only be positive."