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New tech tool to make banking easier for those living with autism

Magnuscards have step by step instructions for those living with autism
Posted at 6:38 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 10:07:21-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — There's a new partnership designed to make life easier for people living on the spectrum. One of Western New York's biggest banks is teaming up with one of Buffalo's newest startups to help adults living with autism with day to day tasks.

"Money can be scary for any individual for any individual regardless of whether you have a disability or not," said Stephanie Tisdale, whose brother is living with Asperger's Syndrome and VP at M&T Bank.

For those living with autism or other neurodivergencies, there's an anxiety that can surround every day tasks.

"Think of an airport, everyone has anxiety when they enter an airport, so much noise and confusion, it's overwhelming. Imagine feeling that level of anxiety or uncertainty around every thing you did," said Nadia Hamilton, President and Founder of Magnusmode.

Magnusmode, 2018 winner of the 43North competition, is working with 45 companies, including M&T Bank, using a new technology to help level the playing field.

"We've taken on a number of initiatives to make sure they have the ability to live their authentic lives and get the tools and support they need," said David Zolnowski, President of M&T's Disability Advocacy Network.

Magnuscards provide step-by-step instructions for day to day transactions
Magnuscards provide step-by-step instructions for day to day transactions

One of those tools is an app for your phone called Magnuscards, which allows you to do step by step interactions of common banking transactions, making a withdrawal, going to the teller, going to the ATM, making a purchase, etc.

It maps out the process in these card decks using pictures, text and audio to walk you through from beginning to end, for comfort as well as safety.

"It is a group that obviously has the advantage of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people, so if we're able to teach them how to do the transactions appropriately, they can also identify fraud and make sure they're safe and protected," said Zolnowski.

It's a tool these leaders at M&T Bank say they have seen work well in their personal lives.

"I have a 23-year-old son with down syndrome and he's getting to the point where he's starting to be more independent have his own money and be able to manage that," said Zolnowski.

Zolnowski's 23-year-old son lives with Down Syndrome
Zolnowski's 23-year-old son lives with Down Syndrome

"The ability to use the app to have that independence and not need someone to always go hand in hand with him, that's been super impactful," said Tisdale about her brother.

They say they're already seeing success with this app and are already looking to add more tools, like how to use mobile banking apps like Venmo or Zelle.

The goal for Magnusmode is to have any customer based business using this tool.

"It's a pathway from exclusion to inclusion and also from isolation to active participation," said Hamilton.

Local resources for those living with autism: - Has community/learning/recreational opportunitie - Offers individualized programs for anyone on the spectrum and the families - Offers post-secondary education/career programs for people with autism