Ensure digitalised financial services are accessible to visually challenged persons: PIL in Delhi HC

A public interest litigation (PIL) has been moved in the Delhi High Court seeking directions to ensure digitalised financial services are accessible to visually challenged persons and that the employees and customer care service providers of all banks and financial service providers are trained and sensitised towards their needs.

The petitioner has named the Central government through the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Finance, and Reserve Bank of India as respondents in the matter.

The petition is slated to come up for hearing before a division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan on November 2.

The PIL, filed by George Abraham through advocate Srishti Agnihotri last week, said that in the wake of most financial transactions becoming digitalized and technology transforming the banking and financial services across the country, there is a Constitutional obligation upon the state to ensure that these services are accessible for the visually challenged persons.

The plea said that touch-screen technology and websites and phone applications which are not disabled-friendly are becoming huge obstacles for visually challenged persons while conducting their financial affairs. Visually challenged persons are legally considered competent to contract and it is their right to be able to handle their own financial affairs independently, it said.

“Digitalisation of banking and financial services that makes visually challenged/impaired persons dependent on sighted persons is in violation of their right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as their right to occupation under Article 19(1)(g),” the plea said.

“Technology to make sure that all the devices, websites, mobile applications, other software, etc are accessible for visually challenged persons are available and recognized by the authorities. In fact, certain attempts such as voice-enabled ATMs have been made as per the guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank of India. There are however several more impediments that require immediate attention and action on part of the authorities,” it added.

The plea also sought directions to ensure that card reading devices for making card payments are accessible for visually challenged persons and also all bank websites and mobile phone applications for financial services are tested for accessibility at every stage of transactions.

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