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Banking is for every person

Date: 4 April, 2023

Writer : Vashkar Bhattacharjee
Source : Dhaka Tribune

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

4 April, 2023
Writer : Vashkar Bhattacharjee
Source : Dhaka Tribune
· Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Banking is for every person

Banking is for every person

It was a proud moment when Bangladesh was among the first 20 nations to ratify and sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Furthermore, even at home, the “Persons with Disabilities Rights and Protection Act, 2013” was passed by the government in accordance with the current administration’s pledge to enact a rights-based law for people with disabilities in its election manifesto in 2009.

Such a law ensures the rights and overall development of people with disabilities in Bangladesh and, perhaps most importantly, also includes a separate section on digital inclusion and accessibility.

In addition, the “People with Neuro-Developmental Disability Trust Act 2013” was passed to address the needs of the most vulnerable citizens who have disabilities like neuro-development, including being on the autistic spectrum.

All of this points to one thing — when it comes to persons with disabilities, Bangladesh cares. On paper at least.

Banking, and by extension, financial products and services, are an essential part of life. Advances in technology have no doubt increased the efficiency and convenience of banking.

However, this has also increased the need for banks and other financial service providers to rapidly adapt — to make sure all their customers, including those with a disability, can access and conduct their banking safely and securely.

Accessible digital financial information is necessary for assistive technology users. It also simply makes banking easier for anyone using their computer or smartphone.

And it is a shame that almost all of the banks fail to meet their customers’ needs, simply because they do not fulfil the minimum digital accessibility requirements.

By proactively addressing accessibility barriers, certain banks can position themselves ahead of other financial institutions that fail to consider the needs of the population who have disabilities.

Beyond the importance of enhancing the customers’ experience and being socially responsible, digital accessibility can also be financially profitable.

We are gradually moving from Digital Bangladesh to Smart Bangladesh. This achievement undoubtedly deserves praise and one that will transform our nation. Despite this, it is unfortunate that persons with disabilities have not been fully included in various digital services — and the banking sector is no different.

Visually impaired people are still not taken into account when creating bank accounts or issuing ATM cards. In fact, many in the financial sector in our country still believe that visually impaired people cannot even use an ATM card. They also believe that if these cards are handed to persons with disabilities, their money will be seized by others.

Bangladesh Bank has established standards to provide accessibility for all persons with disabilities in the bank’s digital services but as far as I am concerned, most of the banks do not follow the directives set by Bangladesh Bank — rather they follow their own policies. I have come to know about these issues while talking to many brothers and sisters who have disabilities.

I personally have encountered these constraints when I applied for my own credit card, despite complying with all the requirements to have one. This is happening because the bank authorities do not have proper awareness and understanding of persons with disabilities.

If a person with a disability can pursue higher education from the highest institutions, surely debit cards and credit cards cannot be an issue! If a visually impaired person can use an android phone without any help from others, where there are no buttons, and with full skin touch, why can’t he or she use an ATM card?

This is my plea to the appropriate authorities: I believe that it might not be ideal to dream of development by leaving anyone behind. All individuals must be included in the development process as we move forward.

With that said, however, it must be said that Bangladesh Bank has understood that there is a problem — and has taken some initiative to identify potential solutions for the obstacles that people with disabilities are likely to encounter when accessing financial services — be that mobile banking or any other form of financial service.

The fact that Bangladesh Bank was advised to consult with a2i on this matter gives us hope for some progress, but we are a long way away. I hope that individuals from all areas of life will step up to establish the fundamental rights of people with disabilities.

Vashkar Bhattacharjee, a person with visual disability , serves as the National Accessibility Consultant for a2i. He is also involved with YPSA (Young Power in Social Action), an organization for sustainable development, and provides advisory support towards its disability portfolio. He has worked to advance inclusive development and humanitarian action for over 18 years.

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