A PIL has been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking directions to ensure accessibility of online and technology based banking services to visually impaired persons.
The Petition states that it is the responsibility of the state, under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, to ensure that persons with disabilities have control over their financial affairs. It states:
'As per National Programme for Control of Blindness, there are about 12 million blind, and 50 million visually impaired people in India. An obligation is cast upon the state to ensure that financial services, in the current digital age becomes accessible to every citizen including visually impaired citizens'.
Moreover, the obligation of the state to protect the rights of visually impaired persons is also enshrined in Articles 14, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution.
The petition goes on to mention that as per the various circulars issued by the RBI, visually impaired persons are legally competent to enter into contracts. This implies that the visually impaired persons are entitled to all banking facilities and services to be made accessible to them.
It is due to this reason, that the visually impaired persons have a right to independently handle their financial services, the petition submits.
It also stated that in 2008, Indian Bank Association had issued Procedural Guidelines for Banking Facilities to Visually Impaired Persons to Chief Executives of all member banks, which lay special emphasis on making online transactions accessible for visually impaired persons.
Moreover, as per the Petitioner, RBI has issued multiple circulars to commercial banks, in form of advisories to make banking facilities accessible to visually impaired persons. However, the same have not been implemented till date.
The Petitioner has also provided W3C Guidelines which have been developed and accepted as international standards to make online content accessible to visually impaired persons.
These guidelines recommend using technological tools such as screen readers, speech recognition, providing text for all non-text content, etc. However, it is submitted by the Petitioner, that most of the banking websites do not comply with these guidelines, making accessibility to visually impaired persons extremely difficult.
It is also pointed out that processes such as use of touch screen instead of a keyboard, and entering CAPTCHA for online payments and other services, time restriction on entering OTP, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System, are not convenient for visually impaired persons.
These technologies, as per the Petitioner, are a major hurdle for the visually impaired persons to handle their financial affairs independently.
Therefore, the petition has sought directions to be issued to the Union Government and the RBI to implement the following:
a. Compliance with RBI's Master Circular dated July 1, 2015
b. to ensure that PoS Machines are available for visually impaired persons to make cards payments
c. to ensure that all banks websites and mobile phone apps for financial services are tested for accessibility at every stage of transaction
d. to ensure compliance with W3C Guidelines are they're also recognised by Government of India
e. to ensure that all ATM machines are voice-enabled
f. to ensure that all hardware and software products procured by banks are disabled friendly
g. to ensure compliance with Section 13 of the RPWD Act, with reference to the visually impaired persons.