The Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB) and Centre for Inclusive Development (CID) have advocated for Nigerian banks to set up a steering committee to enhance financial inclusion for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
Ms. Oluwakemi Odusanya, the Project and Administrative Officer, NAB, made the clarion call in a recent capacity building on financial inclusion organized by the association in partnership with Centre for Inclusive Development with support from Disability Rights Fund, DRF.
According to Odusanya, COVID Pandemic has redefined the way things are done especially a change in work culture. Thus, making almost everything virtual but PWDs are not included when it comes to virtual services.
“What bothers us is that the banks do not understand the needs of persons with disability and I don’t blame them because they are not persons with disability. So it’s fine for them not to understand but what kills and becomes a pain is when they do not dialogue with the relevant stakeholders such as organizations working with PWDs, and persons with disability who work in the financial system,” Odusanya noted.
She stated further that things will be a lot easier if the banks set up a steering committee to look into the very many banking issues being faced by PWDs.
Odusanya called on CBN and all banks in Nigeria to set up a steering committee with a focal person of each bank to be there and have organizations of persons with disability to direct the committee. “We understand that there is a Nigerian Sustainability Banking Principle which has financial Inclusion included in it but it is yet to be implemented. Banks need to engage with PWDs to ensure that their services are accessible to all.”
Some of the issues that require urgent attention to ensure financial inclusion for PWDs according to the NAB Administrative officer are: “inaccessible services, inaccessible environment for wheelchair users, lack of a sign interpreter for Deaf persons as well as non-provision of account statement in accessible formats for a blind person who needs a braille copy.”
Buttressing Odusanya’s point, Mr. David Okon, the immediate past president of the association added that one of the problems noticed is that majority of the NAB members cannot open a personal account without the banks asking them to bring a co-signatory. “Persons with disability find it very difficult to access financial services either by way of infrastructures like buildings premises and so on”.
“Imagine that I come into a bank and I request to open an account and the bank official said you cannot open an account alone as a blind person, so would advise that you go and get somebody who will be a co-signatory to your account. Then the question is; how secret is my account? Because a bank is supposed to maintain the duty of secrecy so once you have a co-signatory it means that my account is known to a third party no matter who it may be”
In his contribution, Mr. Gbenga Ogundare, a reporter with The Nation Newspaper, said that the mobile app for banks in Nigeria is not accessible to PWDs because the buttons are not labeled and pleaded with the banks to address the issue.
Speaking on behalf of the bank, Mr. Chukwuma Osaho, head of Financial Inclusion at Access Bank Plc, noted that the bank is committed to ensuring the inclusion of PWDs and is working towards availability and accessibility of all banking features such as; online banking, ATM machine, prompt attention by customer service representatives and more.