Pakistan ATM Advocacy: Blind Community Success

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This post is about blind advocates in Pakistan. They were successful in convincing the government to stop banks from denying them ATM cards. The advocates want equal access to ATMs and bank accounts and are also demanding Talking ATMs [Back to Article]

In August of this year, blind advocates in Pakistan demanded an end to widespread discrimination against blind people by the banking industry in that country.

Just four months later, in early December, 2009, that advocacy paid off. In two articles posted here, the Pakistani press reports on new government mandates requiring banks to allow blind citizens to open their own bank accounts. Braille information is being produced and, for the first time, Talking ATMs are being considered for installation in Islamabad. Efforts to end discrimination against people with disabilities in insurance and micro-lending are also underway.

The Law Office of Lainey Feingold congratulates everyone who organized the protest against Pakistan banks, and the entire Pakistani blind community, for its successful advocacy. Independent access to financial information and equipment is critical to financial privacy. Virtually all ATMs around the world are manufactured by a few global corporations, and the financial industry itself continues to grow more and more international. May 2010 bring more stories such as the one posted here of successful disability rights advocacy around the world.

Read the August, 2009 post about Pakistan.

Simplified Summary of this Document

Banks directed to permit blind people to open accounts

Islamabad (December 5, 2009)– Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education through State Bank of Pakistan issued special directives on Friday to all national and private banks to permit visually impaired persons to open their individual accounts.

Previously blind persons were not allowed to open their individual accounts in any bank of Pakistan and only their joint accounts could be opened which sometimes create trouble for them in the absence of some close blood relation.

According to the reliable sources the ministry had been negotiating with all banks especially the State Bank of Pakistan in order to facilitate the visually impaired persons and strict action would be taken against those who refuse to do so.

The persons with visual impairment would be given a special cheque books with Braille through which they could operate their accounts independently and individually. “The condition of joint account is also a threat to the privacy of the account holder,” the source said.

Besides that the installation of talking ATM machines at various point of the city is also under consideration. “Although it requires a lot of expertise and funds yet we are committed to facilitate the special persons by installing talking ATM machines,” she said.

The source said that special ATM cards would be issued to the visually impaired persons who could operate their account through their card as well. “The ATM cards with special identity of special persons would be issued to them and only they could take benefit from the talking ATM,” she said.

According to the sources negotiations between international insurance companies were also underway according to which special persons would be eligible for having micro-credit and insurance policy. “Disabilities are considered a disease in our country unlike other countries where special persons are given more advantages and facilities as compared to the normal one,” said the source.

The source revealed that Ministry of Social Welfare striving to remove the status of disease attached with the special persons.

Having disability of some kind does not mean that the person was having a disease so they should also be eligible for the insurance policy. — Anonymous Source

It is learnt that previously the ministry tried to negotiate with the national insurance company for the issuance of insurance policies to the disable persons as well but these negotiations could not prove to be fruitful. “Now we are negotiating with international stakeholders and are very hopeful that the special persons would also get the right of insurance,” she said.

This article was written by Saadia Khalid and originally appeared in The International News, published in Pakistan.

Ministry to install ATMs for visually impaired

Islamabad (December 7, 2009) On rising demands of visually impaired persons to install ‘Talking ATM Machines,’ Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education is holding discussions with banks to devise a plan for upgrading the already functioning Automotive Teller Machines (ATM).

The Ministry through the State Bank of Pakistan has issued directions to the banks to open individual accounts for the visually impaired persons instead of a joint account to facilitate the visually impaired persons and make them a productive member of society. The banks are also advised to explain the soft terms and conditions set for operating these accounts, an official in the ministry told this agency.

According to the directives issues by the ministry to all national and private banks, the visually impaired persons would be allowed to open their individual accounts. Considering the issue of ‘Talking ATM’, the ministry has been holding meetings with the management of banks to facilitate the blind persons in a minimum cost, the official said.

“Installing separate ATMs for this purpose will be a costly project while keeping in view the feasibility of the project, the ministry was focusing on upgrading the already working ATM machines with some new features,” the official added.

The ministry has issued special identity cards to the entire disabled community having a logo of a disabled person on wheel chair in order to facilitate the special persons with discount in fairs during traveling.

“It is a step towards independence and empowerment of persons with disability and will ensure their contribution in the progress of the country,” the official remarked.

The ministry was also endeavoring to introduce a micro-credit scheme for disable persons as a top priority in order to bring social empowerment for persons with disability. In this regard, the ministry was having consultations with banks to decide an easy way of providing loans to disabled with a minimum interest. This endeavor would enable the persons with disability to be independent through small scale business with proper finance in soft terms and conditions.

These efforts will bring substantial change in living standards of these persons and will move forward in making Pakistan a disabled friendly state of the world. — Official at the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education

This article originally appeared in the print and on-line editions of the Pakistan newspaper, The Nation.