Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Please keep my money, Mr. Banker!

I was at a meeting yesterday with some friends from our `Disability Rights Alliance' , the aim of the meeting being to try and draw up a list of some `reasonable, minimal and non-negotiable' requirements to be put up by two of us who will be going to Delhi this week-end to be part of a `consultation with the powers that be' - with our `begging bowl' to say `pretty please, would you be so kind as to satisfy these greedy wants of ours'.

The reader should know the background, where many perfectly intelligent and capable people are being denied, only because they have cerebral palsy or some psycho-social disorder, the right to own and maintain a bank account! Here is my bid to itemise some of these demands. You would think any self-respecting democratically run country - leave alone the largest one in the world - would consider these to be self-evident necessities!

A note on some acronyms used: (i) PWD = person(s) with disability; (ii) P without D = the other kind, for whom the banks seem to work!)

  1. All banks should, when necessary, accept a thumbprint of a person in lieu of a signature. (If this can be done for any one human being (e.g., illiterate, or aged and unable to sign), there can be no justification for not doing this for every person – with or without disability. Any bank that does so should be liable to a fine/penalty, and should recompense the person so discriminated against.
  2. All bank personnel should undergo a course of sensitisation where they learn the do's and don't's of dealing with PWD.
  3. Every bank shall have an accessibility officer to identify potential problems of, maintain statistics regarding, and facilitate communication with and transactions by persons with disabilities.
  4. ATMs should be usable by people with all manners of disability (be it visibility, auditory, speech or locomotor impairments). A third of the branches of each bank in each town should have a drive-in ATM.
  5. In cases where some PWD are constrained to have an account jointly with a guardian, all transactions in that account must be immediately intimated to both account holders.
  6. Appropriate safe-guards must be built into the mechanisms by which guardians are assigned to PWD who may be deemed to need them.
  7. Banks should initiate drives to get PWD among their clientele, maintain statistics of the PWD among their clientele, and disincntives should be in place to discourage banks where the percentage of PWD among all clients varies from the mean beyond statistically acceptable standards.
  8. ATMs should not ask clients for their phone numbers (simply because they may not have one or be deaf!) It should be possible to operate an ATM purely on the basis of the thumb-prints of the user.
  9. Any Bank refusing to let a PWD open an account must be severely and sternly reprimanded by the RBI and appropriate penalty should be levied. The same holds for any bank found using different criteria for the same service to PWD and P without D.
  10. A master circular laying out all these considerations concerning PWD should be distributed and prominently displayed in all Banks.
  11. The absurd practise of people with certain kinds of disability needing to obtain a certificate that `they do not need a guardian' should immediately be done away with. Unlike other citizens of the land, are PWD guilty until proven innocent?

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