In October, 1999, the first Talking ATM was installed in the United States. Ten years later, advocates around the world continue to push for equal and confidential access to financial information and technology. The following article appeared on August 6, 2009 in The International News, published in Islamabad, Pakistan. It is about a protest organized by blind activists in that city to protest banks’ refusal to issue ATM cards to blind consumers.
Read the December Update of this Story. You can also read about the Talking ATM settlements negotiated by the blind community in this country using Structured Negotiations in the Talking ATM Settlement Category of this website.
Blind people demand access to ATM cards
Around 50 blind people staged a protest demonstration here on Wednesday against non-issuance of (Automated Teller Machines) ATMs cards to them by the commercial banks.
The protesters carrying placards chanted slogans against the policies of the commercial banks that deprive them of their basic banking right.
They were of the view that throughout the world not only are ATM cards issued to the blind, ATM machines are made accessible to them, enabling blind customers to operate these machines independently.
The protesters also staged a sit-in and demanded of the concerned authorities to amend the banking policies for paving the way for issuance of ATM cards to the blind people.
Zahid Abdullah, who organised the protest demonstration while talking to ‘The News’ said that the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR), the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNRPWD), which Pakistan signed last year, and the teachings of Islam, protect the inherent dignity of the disabled. He said denying some people the right to have an ATM card on basis of their blindness is sheer discrimination.
Zahid rejected the viewpoint of the bank officials that the blind cannot protect ATM cards due to their disability, saying many sighted ATM cardholders damage and lose their cards in broad daylight. He said supporters of accessible banking have raised the issue with Governor State Bank through email, with a request to develop a policy on accessible banking and if it has already developed it then it should instruct the banks to implement it.
Referring to talking ATM machines installed in various countries, he said a blind person plugs in a headphone and starts receiving instructions regarding the use of ATM.
He demanded of the State Bank to issue directives to all the banks for issuance of ATM cards to the blind people who are very much part of the society.