Need for Accessible Banks and ATMs in India
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The estimated 100 million PwDs are left to rely on others to access a bank or ATMs, to conduct banking transactions or withdraw money. Those on wheelchairs are forced to wait outside the bank for assistance to be lifted up the stairs.
A young friend of mine, who is blind, and is an earning IT professional, is denied a debit card by the bankers for a long time, and finally gets one after much strife and follow ups - each time being brushed off with 'We can't trust you to use an ATM card correctly". ATMs and banks with audio guidance are rare or even completely missing in many towns and cities.
Another acquaintance of mine, who has a hearing impairment, relies largely on written communication while at a bank due to the absence of staff who know sign language.
One of my friends with cerebral palsy, working in a prominent position in an IT firm, while using the bank was asked “Why do people like you even need to come here?”
Such is the level of insensitivity - and inaccessibility that creates barriers - preventing full and equal participation of PwDs in our society.
A person with a physical or visual disability is unable to withdraw his or her own money, from an ATM or bank that he or she chooses to use. Banks and ATMs are more often than not inaccessible in India.
As per a RBI guideline issued in July 2011, banks need to make provisions of ramps, talking ATMs with Braille keypads. A third of ATMs within city limits should be made accessible to the persons with disabilities.
However, these guidelines have hardly been implemented. Out of nearly 160,000 ATMs in the country, only 6,000 have provisions of ramps, talking ATMs with Braille keypads.
This means, almost 97 out of every 100 ATMs in the country are NOT accessible to people with disabilities.
Current directives in the RBI circular could also be more thorough and inclusive as they lack clear guidelines- the features of blanking screens, headphones for discreet audio output, tactile signs are missing in the circular.
Here is a more complete and inclusive list of guidelines to ensure accessible ATMs.
I am Hema Subhash, a woman with an above knee amputation, who has lived in India for 7 years as a woman with a physical disability- having to seek support from others to navigate inaccessible spaces like Banks and ATMs puts me in an inconvenienced position.
Isn't it time that we understood that the real disability doesn’t lie within the person, but in environmental barriers and unhealthy attitudes towards disability.
This keeps the population of PwDs in India from participating in life and contributing to the society. We don’t need sympathy and pity, but understanding an empathy.
Please support this petition to bring to notice this widespread issue that affects the lives of millions of those with disabilities in India, and to hopefully make banks, ATMs among other public spaces accessible in India.
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