SBP issues policy to make banking process easy for disabled persons

Shahnawaz AkhterWeb Editor

21st Jun, 2021. 03:35 pm
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KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday issued a policy for the financial inclusion of persons with disabilities to make banking process easy for them.

The central bank issued the policy to make banking easy and convenient for them through supportive physical infrastructure, accessible products and services, assistive technologies, and supportive staff interactions.

To facilitate these special persons and to provide detailed regulatory guidance, a comprehensive policy framework has been developed to promote financial inclusion of the same.

In this regard, the SBP directed the banks to put in place a comprehensive policy framework and strategy document, duly approved by their board of directors, demonstrating their strong commitment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities as customers, and employees.

The policy framework and strategy document would set clear measures to increase financial inclusion of all categories of persons with disabilities, including women with disabilities, i.e., physically handicapped, visually impaired/blind, and people with hearing and speech disabilities.

The banks are required to ensure availability of accessibility infrastructure, including stationery forms/documents in braille script at the controlling offices, ie, Area Office, Regional Office, etc, sign language interpretation services, including through digital/virtual means and ramps at the entrances of branch premises and ATM cabins.

Further, the banks would also ensure accessibility audits of premises (entrance of branches, washrooms, ATM cabins, counters, lockers) as part of the branch audit to ensure that proper accessibility infrastructure for all kinds of persons with disabilities is available.

Regarding accessibility of the banking products and services, the banks have been directed to give such persons priority, special assistance, and due care (eg, preferential treatment/out of queue assistance) and recognising their specific requirements.

Considering special needs of these people, while developing and delivering banking products and services, including provision of financing; conducting marketing activities; providing access to internal and external information communication technology (ICT), websites etc; and ensuring efficient flow of banking facilities to women with disabilities by engaging a woman disabilities in the development of policies, procedures, products and services relevant to them.

The banks are required to submit their board’s approved policy framework and strategy document to the State Bank for information latest by September 30, 2021. The central bank said the banking industry through the platform of the Pakistan Banks Association (PBA) would collaborate to designate some branches as model branches, specialised in serving the persons with disabilities, while also catering to the needs of the general public.

In the first phase, no big city will have more than three model branches to diversify and to optimally utilise the model branch network. The banks would, at the PBA level, decide to establish at least two model branches each in AJK and the Gilgit-

Baltistan area in the first phase by March 31, 2022.

If deemed necessary, the SBP in consultation with the industry may also develop criteria based on which some banks may be required to establish more than two model branches each in Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK.

The central bank directed the banks to take necessary measures for creating awareness among the persons with disabilities and the general public through various means, including notice boards outside the branch, print and electronic media, websites, etc, about the availability of the model branches in different cities.

In addition, all the banks, microfinance banks and development financial institutions (DFIs) would mandatorily construct ramps at all newly-opened and existing places of businesses, excluding mobile banking units to make them accessible for the persons with disabilities and wheelchair users.

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