A large number of persons with disabilities are unable to access banking and financial services autonomously and independently. This is due to a combination of physical and structural limitations in accessing financial institutions and misperceptions about the ability of persons with disabilities to handle personal finances. (Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs, 2015).
Data collected in 2017 by the National Disability Institute (USA) regarding the banking status and financial behaviours of persons with disabilities revealed that:
- Households with a disability were three times more likely to have no current or savings account compared to households with no disability (18 percent versus 6 percent).
- Households with disabilities were more likely to rely on bank officers and less likely to use online or mobile banking facilities. Thirty-seven percent of households with a disability used online or mobile as the primary method to access their account compared with 62 percent of households with no disability.
- Compared to households without a disability, those with a disability were much less likely to have a credit card, store credit, mortgage or home equity, vehicle loan or student loan.
Banking Challenges Faced by Persons with Disabilities in Malaysia
In Malaysia, persons with disabilities continue to face many barriers, and even exclusion, to accessing banking and financial services. Some of them are:
- Inconsistent banking policies for Blind and Visually Impaired persons.
- Inaccessible banking websites and ATM machines.
- Inaccessible buildings.
- Inaccessible banking information.
Please read the article “Blind spots in banking” by The Star Newspaper in 2020, which highlighted the challenges faced by Blind and Visually Impaired persons in accessing banking services.
Disability-Inclusive Banking and Financial Services
Financial institutions must make their services accessible, non-discriminating and inclusive to all persons with disabilities:
- Non-discriminating policies against persons with disabilities.
- Disability-sensitive and disability-inclusive training for all staff members and leaders.
- Accessible buildings and built facilities.
- Accessible Automated Teller Machines (ATM) at wheelchair accessible height.
- Banking information in Braille and plain language.
- Sign language interpretation services – Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM).
- Websites that are compliant with the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
- Accessible banking mobile applications.
*Note: Resources linked are in English and pdf or webpage format, unless stated otherwise.
Banking status and financial behaviors of adults with disabilities by the National Disability Institute.
Digital Accessibility in Financial Services: It’s Critical and Here’s Why by Essential Accessibility.
Making Online Banking and ATMs Accessible to People with Disabilities by Level Access.
Banking on Accessibility: A case for accessible banking for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) by Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC)