The enigma of inaccessible banks

Sangameshwar Sangundi is 20 years old. He is from Borati near Solapur in Maharashtra. He belongs to a low income family of five people. He is the eldest among three other siblings. He had normal vision till the age of 6 years until he contracted jaundice which adversely affected his eyes. As a result, cornea in one eye was damaged leading to a complete vision loss and he lost partial vision in the other eye. On consultation, the doctor suggested that the eye with partial vision could regain better vision in the long run. Doctor left eye operation as an optional decision to the family. They chose not to undergo the operation at that point.

His family was very supportive and never gave up on him. He was put to school for the first time at 8 years in Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Blind School, Solapur. There he studied till sixth standard. He always believed that he didn’t belong to a special school which made him shift to a mainstream school after sixth standard in 2012. At the same time he connected with National Association for the Blind (NAB), Solapur and took up vocational courses like candle making, chalk making, weaving chair, file making and book binding. He also started conducting training sessions for other trainees at NAB.

He stayed in NAB hostel while pursuing school in 11th standard and being a trainer there. He came to know about Eyeway through social media. Since then he has frequently connected to Eyeway over various issues like employment, scribe related guidelines, etc. He recently contacted the Helpdesk because he was facing denied an ATM card by Bank of Maharashtra. He applied twice or thrice but was rejected each time on grounds of his visual impairment.

On understanding his struggle the Eyeway counselor shared with him the IBA and RBI guidelines that specify the rules related to the issue. When he produced the circulars the bank authorities couldn’t deny him the service. But what turned out odd was the undignified treatment he was put to by the Bank Manager. The Manager himself took to verifying the disability of Sangameshwar by making him perform some accessibility tasks. He was asked to prove himself capable of using a mobile phone, internet facility etc.

It is not within the authority of the bank officials to resort to such acts and could become harassment in worst cases. Though Sangameshwar didn’t react contrary to what he was asked he surely felt insulted. Many similar discriminatory cases where visually impaired are denied services by banks have occurred and continue to occur. This is mainly because of the ignorance and unawareness on the part of the bank officials. Only proper training and knowledge dissemination can fix these problems and alter people’s mindsets towards disability.