AGRA CONVENTION 2014
Blind Stars Beyond Facebook Bridging The Gap
7th to 9th November, 2014
Accessible Banking Services: Legal Provisions for Availing Rights by Visually Impaired Customers:-
The key speaker of the session was Mr. Rahul Gambheer, a visually challenged bank officer as well as activist working for the financial inclusion of the visually impaired. The session was moderated by Mohd. Khalid, the administrator and founding member of the group ‘Blind Stars’.
It was pointed out that the aim of the nationalization of the banking sector was ‘Financial Inclusion’, which was considered the social responsibility of the banking sector. The recently flagged off ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana’ was lauded for being a groundbreaking effort by the government to bring more and more people into the mainstream. But the question remains: Is Financial Inclusion really happening for the visually impaired?
A lot of work has been done in this sector due to the efforts of pioneers championing the cause of the visually impaired. Circulars, technologies, disability-friendly infrastcture like talking ATMs etc. have improved the statistics of visually impaired people availing the services of the banking sector. But a lot more needs to be done.
- Provisions for the blind – A brief history of banking services for the visually impaired was discussed.
- It was in 2005 that the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) issued a breakthrough judgment in Singhania vs Banking Division which was as follows :
- The visually impaired are legally competent to enter into a contract.
- Services like savings account, credit card, loan facility, lockers cannot be denied to the visually impaired.
- Services cannot be denied on the pretext that fraud could be committed easily with the blind as the same could happen with a sighted person.
The same judgment was released as a guideline to banks in its circular by the Indian Banking Association (IBA) in 2005 December. After this, a lot of circulars were released by the Reserve Bank of India, the IBA, Banking Codes and Standards Boards of India (BCSBI) with guidelines for the provision of services to the visually impaired by the banks which could be summed up as follows:
- No bank could force a visually impaired person to open a joint account with a sighted person.
- No bank could deny a visually impaired person the right to open a joint account with another visually impaired person.
- A visually impaired person cannot be treated as illiterate based on the mere fact that he/she cannot put his/ her signatures on paper.
- When a visually impaired person withdraws cash, the bank cannot ask a person who is not an employee of the bank to be a witness.
- Cheques with thumb imprints can be cleared if they bear the signature of the bank’s branch manager.
- Locker service cannot be denied to a visually impaired person.
- 33% of the ATMs installed have to be ‘talking ATMs’ which provide services like cash withdrawal, balance enquiry and Pin change.
- Braille labels have to be provided in ATMs.
- Magnifying lenses have to be provided for people with low vision.
- 000 talking ATMs have been installed all over the country by the following banks – Union Bank of India, State Bank of India, Corporation Bank, Bank of Baroda, Citibank, and Grameen Bank. The location of such ATMs could be found out by logging on to www.talkingatmindia.org.
- Internet banking services are going to be made available soon which would be accessible from mobile phones with screen reader software installed.
- Platform for grievance redressal:
If a visually impaired person is denied any service by the bank, he/she could do the following:
- File a written complaint with the bank manager.
- If the problem is not solved within 5 days, a complaint could be made to the grievance redressal officer of the bank.
- A complaint could be made on the bank’s site.
- If the problem is not addressed by any of the above, the Banking Ombudsman could be approached.
It was noted that the various authorities have made ample provisions for the visually impaired, but lacunae in the provision of services still exist because of lack of sensitization on the part of banking staff. Therefore, it is necessary for the visually impaired to educate themselves of their own rights so that they could stand up for themselves.
The Right to Information as well as media could be used as effective tools against any type of violation of rights by banking authorities.
Read the report – Agra Convention 2014 – Report – HTML with Audio/Video