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Friday, 13 October 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Council wants banks to give the visually-impaired proper access to financial services

THE visually-impaired community wants better access to banking services.

Their main complaints include the inability to open personal bank accounts and hold Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards.

In a forum organised by the National Council for the Blind Malaysia (NCBM) in Kuala Lumpur, council executive director Moses Choo said many bank officers do not understand the abilities and capabilities of the blind.

“We understand that there are risks involved when dealing with us, but unfortunate events happen to all.

“We are very grateful for the biometrics verification process, which is very safe but why are we still being denied certain services?

“We are aware that banks are coming up with disabled-friendly branches with ramps, lower counters and staff trained to serve the disabled but only at designated branches, so it will not serve our needs well.

“Different banks have different policies, which makes it difficult for us to choose.

“Sometimes, even different branches of the same banks are different, as the bank managers use their discretion to settle matters,” he said.

A panellist at the forum Dr Ahmad Shamsuri Mohamed pointed out that the blind and visually-impaired faced problems only when applying for ATM cards but not credit cards.

“I was denied an ATM card. I had to make a payment elsewhere.

“I did so at the counter and the staff helped to fill up the form.

“I later found out that it was not successful and had been charged a late payment fee. The staff had filled up the form wrongly.

“If I did it myself via ATM transfer or online banking, this would not have happened.

“The blind also hold jobs and are racing against time.

“We also need the convenience to do our banking needs just like others,” he said.

NCBM care manager Wong Yoon Loong and his team conducted a survey on the topic and had a few recommendations.

Wong said providing accessible and secure ATMs equipped with voice synthesiser, bigger fonts and contrast background would be a good start.

“It is already available in our neighbouring countries.

“Once we plug in our earphones, the screen goes blank and we will listen to the instructions.

“The banks need to relook and revise policies related to ATM card ownership and personal bank account criteria for the visually-impaired, including the authentication options.

“Ensuring accessible online banking websites and mobile application for us would be good too,” he said.

He also said banks should conduct sensitivity programmes for their staff on how to help visually-impaired customers,” he said.

Also present were representatives from a few banks as well as the Human Rights Commissions of Malaysia.

The Association of Banks Malaysia (ABM) executive director Kalpana Sambasivamurthy said their member banks which offered ATM services generally allowed visually-impaired customers to have ATM cards.

When asked about upgrading the ATM machines for the visually-impaired, Kalpana said feasibility studies were currently under way.

“The visually-impaired are welcome to contact ABM directly at our ABMConnect hotline, 1300-88-9980, with more details regarding specific complaints, so that we may better address the problems,” she said.