New petition in Delhi High Court seeks accessible banking services for blind people
George Abraham, Founder of NGO Score Foundation, recently moved a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) at the Delhi High Court. The PIL states that banking facilities, especially, technological services, must be made accessible to visually impaired people. The PIL is scheduled for next hearing in April. George is convinced that the court will pass an order in favor of the disabled community.
It has been over three years since the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD) has been introduced to empower disabled community in India. Even now, central and state governments have failed to implement it. Due to inaccessibility, visually impaired people are unable to do things independently. Earlier this month, George Abraham, Founder of Score Foundation, moved a public interest litigation (PIL) with the Delhi High Court. The PIL states that all banking services, especially technological services, must be made accessible for the visually impaired community across the state.
Services currently inaccessible for blind
A few weeks back, George, who is a visually impaired person was on his way to fill fuel for his car at a nearby station. The staffs handed over the touchscreen pad for him to enter his card number for card payment. Clearly, George couldn’t use it. Upon asking them to provide him a required machine, he got a negative response.
The staffs asked me to tell my driver to enter the PIN number. This incident was a compromise on my dignity. They did not have the machine for a visually impaired person to use. The banking system and allied industries are going ahead without knowing that visually impaired people are also important stakeholders. Today, more cases of people using touchscreens are coming up. A visually impaired person cannot use it. – George Abraham, Founder Score Foundation
PIL for the right cause
“As per the 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 become accessible to every citizen including visually impaired citizens”, said the PIL.
The PIL also says that in 2008, the Indian Bank Association (IBA) had issued procedural guidelines to ensure accessibility of banking services to visually impaired people.
The petitioner also provided the court W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) guidelines that were developed and accepted as international standards to make online content accessible to visually impaired people. The guidelines clearly recommends usage of technological tools such as screen readers and speech recognition.
The Delhi High Court had taken up the case earlier this week. The next hearing is scheduled for April. George is hopeful that the bench of Justices DN Patel and Harishankar are going to pass a judgment in favor of the disabled community.
The need for accessible banking services
“Even pass book updating machines and mobile apps are not accessible for visually impaired people. They upgraded mobile apps to touchscreen. When I approached my bank, they told me that they cannot help me. Until recently, I was doing things independently. Now, I have to depend on someone to get banking services done. It was high time to legally approach the government”, says George.
With this PIL, George hopes that the court will step up to provide accessible services to visually impaired people across Delhi. “We are in a digital age now. You cannot exclude the visually impaired and blind”, he says.
Maitreya Shah, who is visually impaired, is a law student and disability rights activist. “This PIL is very essential. Many banking services are accessible. But this PIL is specifically for online services. None of the bank websites or mobile apps are accessible”, he says.
George Abraham is a disability rights activist as well. His Score Foundation, based out of Delhi, is one of the leading NGOs in India working for the empowerment of the blind community.