[AI] Banks Guidelines

pamnani pamnani at vsnl.com
Mon Jun 30 16:44:37 EDT 2008

You are aware that the RBI  had issued a circular on 4 th June 2008 after which we had met the Officials at IBA. At that time we had explained the situation and offered to suggest draft Guidelines from the IBA to the Banks.

I have finally been able to work out an initial draft which I  am copying here for everyones comments. 
PART 1 is the Representation to explain the situation and to this will be annexed the various Orders etc.  
I didnt think it necessary to spell out our misery in more detail as they know the situation. 
Part 2 is the Guidelines. Please concentrate on this and let me know if anything needs to be added or altered. 
Thank you  all for the support and a big thank you to the XRCVC. 
Please enjoy reading the 10 pages and lets have your comments quickly on or off the list. i would be grateful if you sent the comments on 
pamnani at vsnl.com


Part 1 

Representation regarding Banking Services on behalf of the Visually Impaired

This Representation has been drafted on behalf of scores of visually impaired persons who use or propose to use banking facilities. It has been necessitated due to:

a.       Certain branches of certain Banks not allowing the visually impaired to open bank accounts and  

b. Certain Branches of certain banks not allowing their visually impaired customers to avail of all the facilities and services being offered by the Bank to other customers.

The afore mentioned discrimination and denial is due to either the Officers of the Banks not being aware of or the improper interpretation of the:

a. The Constitution of India (Articles 14, 16, 19, and 21)

b. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection Of Rights And Full Participation) Act, 1995

c. Interim order dated 28 April 2006 of the Gauhati High Court in Writ Petition No. 2215 of 2006 in Prasanna Kumar Pincha v/s. Union Bank of India & ors.  

d. judgement dated 5 September 2005 in VP Singhania Versus Banking Division, Min. of Finance CCPD Court Case No. 2791/2003 


e. IBA Circular No. CIR/RB/1230 dated 4th February 2006.

f. United Nations  Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by India on 1st October 2007 

g. Letter dated 4 May 2008 of the Chief Commissioner for persons with disabilities addressed to the Secretary of the Banking Division. 

h. RBI Circular dated 4th June 2008 



At the outset we would like to bring to your attention that the visually impaired in India are not a homogeneous group but consist of the following types:


      Those who use Signatures
     Those whose signatures do not tally 
     Those who use Thumb impression
      Totally Blind or Low Vision
     Totally Blind 
     Senior Citizens, late blind etc. In most cases literate  
     Some are literate while others are illiterate
      May want to open a new Bank account
      May want additional facilities and services in an existing Bank account

      facilities and services in an existing bank account
     May have existing facilities and services but the Bank may deny the use of these on renewal or otherwise  

Education has transformed the visually impaired from dependant to independent Earners and Contributing members of Society. Increase in life span, accidents and work related issues have increased the numbers and the demographic profile of the Visually Impaired. This change has led to the Visually Impaired needing and wanting to use the services and facilities available to the other members of Society.    


Technology like screen readers for computers and mobile phones have not only been instrumental in enhancing the productivity of the Visually Impaired but have also made it possible for the Visually Impaired to avail of the services and facilities of Banks independently and safely. 



Therefore the categorization of all the Visually Impaired with the illiterate, denial of services/facilities , , the reluctance of understanding at the ground level, over zealousness of the Bank officials  and the myriad other problems faced by the Visually impaired is the reason for this Representation. 


The Visually Impaired understand that Circulars and guidelines in the past have been issued by the Authorities to protect them however instead of protection some of the guidelines themselves have been discriminatory and a hindrance.  A few instances of burdensome requirements are mentioned herein below:    

a. Certain Banks do not require a prospective customer to visit the branch office while opening an account however they do insist on a Visually Impaired Prospective customer, who anyway finds it difficult to go physically from one place to another, to be physically present in the branch office to open an account.   This adds to the hardship already faced by visually impaired persons.




b. Any guideline which restricts the Visually Impaired customer from availing of any of the facilities and services on his own and the insistence of the Officer that "someone else should be present" or "should be operated jointly" is a fetter to the independence of the visually impaired customer. 

c. Denial of ATM service to a visually impaired customer causes 3 fold problems:

i. For withdrawl of cash the Visually Impaired customer has to go to the branch physically (personal discomfort) and then carry the cash to the place where he needs it(safety issues), 

ii. Deposit of cheques received by the visually Impaired Customer could have been easily deposited at any ATM kiosk instead of at the Branch

iii. Some Banks require the customer to enter the Grid number which is available on the ATM/Debit Card before doing any online transaction. 


d. Not being able to avail of online/net banking services hampers the customer from independently checking his credit card transactions.



Internationally and in India a few Banks have implemented some of these progressive technologies      however most Banks have still to implement them while offering their services:



a.       Accessible Websites complying with International Standards  

B. Talking ATMs

c.       Talking Cheque Books: Another technology that can be applied in this field is the Talking Checkbook. The talking checkbook has extensions built into it to be compatible with Screen Readers and is designed to make account management and check writing truly accessible to the visually impaired.



D. Security Device with Talking facility which generates random numbers other than passwords for online transactions.  

e.       Biometrics including Finger Print Recognition 

f.        digital signature

G. smart cards  



The Visually Impaired have themselves adapted to their banking requirements for eg. 

a.       Cheque templates are available for specific Banks enabling the Visually Impaired customer to fill out the appropriate cheque fields on his own and only with the help of his screen reader (on his computer) thus ensuring independence and security.

b.      Visually Impaired customers have learnt the steps and can therefore operate the ATM on their own. 




The need of the hour is: 

a. that the IBA should formulate a policy or issue guidelines to its member Banks with regard to the facilities and services offered to its Visually Impaired Customers 

b. for Banks to extend fully integrated services and facilities to the Visually Impaired Customers and  

c. that such information should be widely publicized. 





Kanchan Pamnani                                                                                 Director 

Advocate and Solicitor                                                             XRCVC                                   

Date 1st July 2008





List of Attachments





Part 2 






Indian Banks Association No. CIR____ July 2008 



 The Chief Executives of all member banks


Dear Sirs,


                   Re: Providing Banking facilities to Visually Impaired                    Persons



  We had issued a circular  No.CIR/RB/1230 dated 4th February, 2006  regarding the  subject, subsequent to which we have received several representations from the visually impaired persons regarding the facilities and services being provided by banks and the ground level difficulties being faced by them. 


Technology such as screen readers for computers and mobile phones which are used by the visually impaired persons for online/net banking has been demonstrated to us.


Further we have also seen finger print recognition Technology.  


Our attention has been 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."



By a letter dated 4th May 2008, addressed to the Secretary of the Banking Division at the Ministry of Finance, the Chief Commissioner for persons with disabilities has requested that banks take appropriate action to ensure that persons with disabilities are not denied equal opportunity in availing of banking facilities.


The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a circular dated 4th June 2008 stating that all banks must render the same services to a visually impaired client as it would to any other client without discrimination. The Circular declared that the banks must provide the visually impaired with every facility including cheque books, credit cards, ATM cards, lockers, third party cheques  etc.


The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities has in his order dated 9th September 2005 in V. p.  Singhania v/s banking Division &ors, advised the Banking Division Ministry of Finance and RBI to issue appropriate instructions. 


General Instructions


1)      Banks should not consider their visually impaired customers in the same light as their illiterate customers. 


2)      All Banks must provide the same facilities to a visually impaired customer/prospective customer as it would to any other customer. 


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


4)      Banks cannot deny all/any services to visually impaired customers including visually impaired customers who use their thumb impression for operating the bank account. 


5)      All/Any services must be provided to the visually impaired customer on his request and at such time the bank is at liberty to inform such a customer of the risks involved.


6)      The banks must have their account opening procedure and other information in an accessible format on their web-site. 


7)      All internal formalities as far as practical must be accessible and paperwork must be kept minimal.

  8. Banks using third-party providers to provide facilities such as online bill payment  must ensure that the websites of these third-party providers are accessible besides making their own websites accessible. 

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


  10.. Banks may consider variations in signature with some leniency and should put in place their own verification system.

11. All banks need to put in place their own system for thump print verification and adapt existing and evolving technology for this purpose.


12. Banks may also introduce other forms of bio-metric identification and  verification.


13. Banks may consider the use of Seals instead of thumb impressions and/or signatures for withdrawls  

14. Visually impaired customers must 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.


 15. No extra hardships or burdens must be imposed on any visually impaired customer . 





I. Opening of all kinds of accounts in joint or single name


      1. The bank must not insist that the visually impaired customer  must come in person for opening  a bank account. The bank must follow the same procedure for opening the account of a visually impaired person as it does for its other customers.



2. He / She may be allowed to open the account either singly / jointly, with whom he / she considers reliable.


3. 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.


4. The bank branch manager may inform a visually impaired customer/prospective customer of his rights and liabilities.


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


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


II.  Withdrawal of cash / Cheque book facility

1. The same facilities as are provided to all customers regarding cash payments must be provided to visually impaired customers.


2. In case a visually impaired customer makes cash withdrawals at the bank then the payment must be made in front of a bank official. 

3. The bank branch must not insist that visually impaired customers carry their passbook for  withdrawals and entries.


4. Operations must not be restricted to self-withdrawals  nor loose-leaf slips only.


5. All visually impaired customers must be issued cheque books on request.

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

Visually impaired customers must be permitted to make any third-party checks and banks should not fetter this service.


III.    Credit Cards  /Debit Cards

1. All visually impaired customers must be issued credit cards/debit cards on request.

2. The bank branch manager may inform the visually impaired customer of any risk that may be involved.

3. All rules and regulation regarding credit/debit card must be available on the web-site of the respective bank in accessible format.

IV.  ATM/Debit Cards 

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

2. Banks should procure talking ATMs whenever they install new ones.  

 3. Provisions must be made to ensure that there exists at least one talking ATM in each locality.  Banks are encouraged to provide accessible ATMs on an area wise basis through constructive dialog and cooperation  between themselves.. 

Banks may choose to share their facilities in order to make such a provision cost effective.

       4. In any event the bank must not refuse to issue an ATM card to its visually impaired customers.

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



IV.              On Line Banking / mobile Banking  and Tele Banking/Phone Banking

1.      All banks must have Accessible web-sites  and conform to international accessibility standards.

2. All web applications should be accessible. 

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

4. All features especially those related to customer security must be accessible.  


      VI. Lockers

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


2. Suitable lockers conveniently located for operations must be allotted.


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

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

a) Operation - Singly       

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

       c) Operation - Jointly.

        5. 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

 VII. Loans

1.      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.

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

3. A Visually Impaired customer must not be placed in a higher risk category etc., because of the fact that he is Visually Impaired. Similarly, the fact that the customer is visually impaired must not in any way affect the credit history of that individual.          

End of tortureKanchan 
























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