Accessibility December 4, 2019
Signature, thumb, body impression now valid to open accounts at HDFC Bank
HDFC Bank takes a big step towards inclusion. Customers can open an account with a signature, thumb or a body impression. This will make banking easier for people with disabilities and will widen HDFC Bank’s customer base.
Reserve Bank of India circulars and the Indian Banks Association’s guidelines have clear guidelines on inclusive banking dating back to 2008. These lay down a strong basis for inclusive banking for customers who are blind and low vision. However, on the ground services for visually impaired customers remain pathetic as they are mostly denied access to banking services. When they are given access, procedures are quite discriminatory, and violate the spirit of the guidelines.
Amar Jain, a Mumbai based lawyer, who is visually impaired, faced this and decided to do something about it.
I am unable to see. And for lack of eyesight, I have been unable to draw signature using pen and paper with consistency despite trying hard. And to bridge this gap, I put my thumb impression. Because of which, and despite me being a qualified advocate under Indian law, the educated minds thought that I am illiterate even though General Clauses Act recognises any thumb or body impression as valid signature. – Amar Jain, Mumbai lawyer
Amar, who is an HDFC customer since 2013, has been working closely with senior level bank employees for the last few years to make services more accessible to disabled customers. Thanks to his efforts, the special card for blind customers to use at ATMs were finally migrated into the system. He has also alerted the HDFC Bank to other issues faced by disabled customers.
Amar took up this matter as well so that customers with disabilities face no problems while opening an account. There are few options for people with disabilities, blind people, those without limbs, to be used as a proof of identity and intent. Following this, HDFC bank has made a change to its account opening form by providing the option of signature, thumb or body impression as a valid signature. “This step completely eliminates denial of banking services to any person with disability on this ground at least”, says Amar.
‘Small towns fare worse’
This is a win but HDFC Bank is just one in an ocean of many banks that need to start following the mandated guidelines. The situation, as Sandeep Singh, a Delhi University student who is visually impaired points out, is far worse in small towns.
“The issue of non-inclusive banking services is worse in smaller towns where lack of ignorance makes it difficult for disabled people to demand for their rights”, says Sandeep. “I stay in a big city and still had to go through a lot of prolonged wait to get my ATM card issued,” he says.
It is unfortunate that despite procedural guidelines dating back to 11 years, such a vital service remains inaccessible to people with disabilities.
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