[INFO] Accessible Banking - IBA releases Guidelines for Accessible Banking

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Rahul Gonsalves

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Nov 20, 2008, 3:07:05 PM11/20/08
to National Policy on E-Accessibility
From Dr. Sam Taraporevala, Director - XRCVC:

The Xavier Resource Center for the Visually Challenged has lobbied
intensively with the Indian Banks Association (IBA) to come out with a
set of inclusive guidelines for visually challenged bank account
holders . They have just issued their circular which is enclosed. This
circular shortly will also be available on the IBA and XRCVC websites.

IBA CIRCULAR
No.CE/RB-1/vip/1766
November 18, 2008

The Chief Executives of all Member Banks

Dear Sirs,

Providing Banking Facilities to Visually Impaired Persons

We refer to our circular No.CIR/RB/1230 dated February 4, 2006
enclosing procedural guidelines on the captioned subject. Subsequent
to which, we have received several representations from visually
impaired persons regarding the facilities and services being provided
by banks and the ground level difficulties being faced by them. As you
are aware, procedural guidelines were issued in the context of the
order dated September 5, 2005 passed by the Court of Chief
Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, New Delhi regarding
facilities to be provided to visually impaired persons.

Following complaints from Visually Impaired Persons, the Commissioner
for Persons with Disabilities had again issued an advisory to the
Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in May 2008 to
take necessary steps to ensure that visually impaired persons are not
denied normal banking facilities.

Subsequently, the RBI, vide circular DBOD.No.Leg BC.
91/09.07.005/2007-08 dated 4th June 2008 advised banks that all banks
must render the same services to a visually impaired person as it
would to any other person without discrimination. The Circular stated
that the banks, must provide the visually impaired with every facility
viz., cheque Book facility, ATM facility, net banking facility, locker
facility, retail loans, credit cards etc.

Following the above RBI circular, we had examined the need to revise
the procedural guidelines issued in February 2006 in consultation with
IBA Sub-committee on Customer Service and Customer Rights. We also had
interactions with a Mumbai based voluntary organization working for
the welfare of Impaired persons. The interactions indicated that
technology innovation in the recent years had greatly empowered
visually impaired persons in leading a normal life. Technology
applications such as screen readers for computers and mobile phones,
which are being used by the visually impaired persons for online/net
banking, were demonstrated to us. Visually impaired persons can read
and understand printed documents etc. by first scanning them and then
getting them read out by the screen reader.

-//-

PAGE : 2 :

Further, we have seen demonstration of finger print technology being
developed by software firm which would enable banks to store thumb
impression of visually impaired persons in place of signature in their
system. Cheques authenticated by them with thumb impression can be
scanned and the image compared with that stored in the system to honor
the cheque. It is suggested that when this technology is fully
developed and made available in the market, banks should consider
integrating it with their core banking platform so that cheque book
facility can be extended to a larger segment of visually impaired
persons.

Our attention was also drawn to the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which clearly commits to rights
of persons with disability and their access to services. Article 9 of
the Convention enables persons with disabilities to live independently
and participate fully in all aspects of life and also gives them
access to facilities and services open or provided to the public, both
in urban and rural areas. Additionally, Article 12 states “ Parties
shall take all appropriate and effective measures to ensure the equal
right of persons with disabilities to own or inherit property, to
control their own financial affairs and to have equal access to bank
loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit, and shall ensure
that persons with disabilities are not arbitrarily deprived of their
property."

It is expected that the guidelines issued by the RBI would result in
an increase in the number of ATM cards issued to visually impaired
persons. This would enhance the case for installation of talking ATMs
to facilitate hassle free operations by visually impaired persons.
Banks are requested to consider installing talking ATMs wherever
feasible.

Keeping in view the above, we have revised the procedural guidelines
for providing banking facilities to visually impaired persons, copy of
which is enclosed. While finalizing the document the Sub-Committee
took into consideration that request for ATM facilities, online
banking facilities etc., would come only from visually impaired
persons who are capable of using the applications. Members are
requested to kindly consider the revised procedural guidelines and
issue necessary instructions to the operating staff.

Yours faithfully,

K Unnikrishnan
Dy. Chief Executive

Encl:A/a

PROCEDURAL GUIDELINES FOR BANKING FACILITIES TO
VISUALLY IMPAIRED PERSONS

I. General Instructions

Banking facilities for visually impaired persons should be offered at
all branches of the bank.

Banks should not equate visually impaired customers with illiterate
customers.

All Banks must provide the same facilities to a visually impaired
customer/prospective customer as it would to any other customer. But
at the same time the customers should be made aware of the risk
involved in some of these facilities which may be higher than that for
a normal customer.

Additional facilities like reading and filling up of forms, slips,
cheques should be provided to a visually impaired customer, if required.

Banks should not deny any services to visually impaired customers
including visually impaired customers who use their thumb impression
for operating the bank account.

A visually impaired customer must not be forced to operate the bank
account jointly with any person or in the presence of any person.

Visually impaired customers may be allowed to appoint a person/persons
as their Power of Attorney or Mandate Holder to operate their
bank account if the visually impaired customer so desires.

II. Opening of Bank Accounts

All banking products offered by the bank should be made available to
visually impaired persons.

The bank must follow the same procedure for opening the account of a
visually impaired person as it does for its other customers.

He / She must be allowed to open the account either singly or jointly
with others.

The Bank must allow the visually impaired customer to open a joint
account with anybody that he/she chooses including person(s) who is/
are visually impaired.

The Officer / Manager of the branch should read out the rules of
business and other terms and conditions in the presence of a witness,
if required by the customer.

The bank branch manager must inform a visually impaired customer/
prospective customer of his rights and liabilities before opening the
account.

The documentation requirements of a visually impaired customer must be
the same as any other customer.

The account has to be clearly marked as "the account holder is
visually impaired".

III. Withdrawal of cash / Cheque book facility

Facilities for withdrawal of cash as are provided to all customers
regarding cash payments must be provided to visually impaired customers.

In case a visually impaired customer makes cash withdrawals at the
bank then the payment must be made in the presence of another bank
employee/officer. No outside witnesses are required unless the
visually impaired customer requests that such witnesses be present.

Operations should not be restricted to self-withdrawals.

Cheque book facility should not be denied to visually impaired person.

All procedures pertaining to the use of such cheque books by visually
impaired customers must be in accordance with that the other customers.

Cheques issued by visually impaired persons to third parties should be
honoured, if otherwise in order.

IV. Credit Cards /Debit Cards

Visually impaired customers must be issued credit cards/debit cards on
request.

All rules and regulation regarding credit/debit card must be available
on the web-site of the respective bank in accessible format. These
should be read out to visually impaired persons and perceived risk
factors explained to them.

Banks may consider issuing Credit/Debit Card with Photograph. This
Photograph will work as a identification/verification.


V. ATM/Debit Cards

Visually impaired customers must be permitted to avail of ATM
facilities.

Banks should also ensure that the ATMs are accessible to other
categories of persons with disabilities such as the orthopedically
disabled.

VI. On Line Banking / Mobile Banking and Tele Banking/Phone Banking

All banks must have Accessible websites and conform to international
accessibility standards.

All customer facing applications such as web applications, desktop
applications and mobile applications should be accessible to visually
impaired persons.

The banks should have alternate methods of user authentication/
password verification.

All features especially those related to customer security must be
accessible visually impaired persons.

VII. Lockers

Visually impaired customers should be provided with locker facility on
request.

Suitable lockers conveniently located for operations may be allotted.

Bank procedures for issuing a locker to a visually impaired customer
must be the same as to any other customer.

A visually impaired customer may be given the following options for
operation of locker:

Operation – Singly
Operation - Singly with the assistance of a reliable person, as per
the choice of the Applicant.
Operation - Jointly.

A visually impaired customer may request the person in-charge of the
locker to be present when the locker is opened or to check if nothing
has been left behind or fallen after the locker is closed.

VIII. Loans

Loans must be made available to visually impaired customers as are
offered to other customers and their impairment of vision should not
be a criterion for sanctioning/denying a loan.

No additional burden of interest payment, collateral and other terms
should be imposed on the visually impaired customer.

**********

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