Reserve Bank of India (RBI) vide, its circular (DBOD. No. Leg BC.91/09.07.005/2007-08 dated 4th June 2008) mandates that all banking services must be offered to blind and low vision customers without any discrimination. According to the above guidelines, Banks should not equate visually impaired customers with illiterate customers. Banks should ensure that all the banking facilities such as cheque book facility including third party cheques, ATM facility, net banking facility, locker facility, retail loans, and credit cards are invariably offered to the visually challenged without any discrimination.
In terms of codes of BCSBI (Banking Codes and Standards Board of India), every bank’s commitment says that “We will make our best efforts to make it easy and convenient for our special customers like senior citizens, differently-abled and illiterate persons to bank with us”.
The blind and low vision customers must be allowed to open the bank account either singly or jointly with others including person(s) who is/are visually impaired. The bank may accede visually impaired customers’ request to appoint person/persons as his/her Power of Attorney or Mandate Holder to operate his/her bank account. Nevertheless, care should be taken that such customers should not be forced to operate the bank account jointly with any person or in the presence of any person. But at the same time, the customers should be made aware of the risk involved in some of these facilities and the Manager/Officer shall read out the rules of business and other terms and conditions in the presence of a witness, if required by the customer. Further, the Manager of the bank shall necessarily inform a visually impaired prospective customer of his rights and liabilities as a customer before opening the account.
Cheque Book facility:
The account opening formalities/documentation is the same as applicable to any other customer. The account has to be clearly marked as “the account holder is visually impaired”. Additional facilities like reading and filling up of forms, slips, cheques should be provided to a visually impaired customer, if required. While making a cash payment to a visually impaired customer same to 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. The bank shall not insist on self-withdrawals, if visually impaired person issues a cheque to a third party same should be honoured, if otherwise in order.
Debit cards/Credit cards/ On-Line Banking / Mobile Banking and Tele Banking facilities
Banks should not deny any services to visually impaired customers including the issuance of credit cards/debit cards on request. Banks may also consider issuing a Credit/Debit Card with photographs for identification purposes. All features especially those related to customer security must be accessible visually impaired persons. The banks should have alternate methods of user authentication/password verification. The On-Line Banking / Mobile Banking and Tele Banking/Phone Banking facilities provided by the banks must be accessible to customers with international accessibility standards. The talking ATM solution has set a benchmark on accessible banking in India and provided financial access to blind persons in getting cash on their own anytime. Talking ATM also provides greater banking usability for the low vision, illiterate and aged population. All rules and regulations regarding credit/debit cards are available on the web-site of the respective bank in an accessible format. These rules should be read out to visually impaired persons and perceived risk factors explained to them before issuing cards.
Visually impaired customers should be provided with a locker facility on their request. The locker allotted should be at a convenient location for easier operation. The formalities involved for allotting locker is the same as to any other customer. The customer may be given choice to open a locker account singly, singly with the assistance of reliable per chosen by the customer or jointly. At the request of the visually impaired person, the official in charge of the locker may be present when the locker is opened and when a locker is closed to ensure that nothing has been left behind or fallen after the locker is closed.
Loan facilities to disabled persons:
The loan request of a blind or partially blind person should be considered as offered to other customers. Impairment of vision should not be the criteria for sanctioning or declining a loan. Banks also lend to mentally retarded persons for income-generating activities. The loan will be provided to set up an income-generating activity for the benefit of the mentally retarded persons. The nature of the income-generating activity will be such that it involves the mentally retarded persons directly in the activity.