Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blind Malaysians denied access to banking services

From The Star in Malaysia:

Life has never been easy and if you’re disabled, it gets tougher.

Earlier this year, 31-year-old blind entrepreneur Allan Wong wanted to open a savings account at a bank in Kepong.

However, the bank officer refused to give him the application form as the bank policy did not allow a blind person to own an independent account.

Disappointed, Wong went to another bank in Kepong and received a similar response from the bank officer.

“I was told that if I were to have an account it must be a joint account with a sighted person and the ATM card must be under the person’s name as well,” he said at a press conference held at KL Sentral on Aug 23.

His friend, Ajong Sidim, 52, had managed to apply for an ATM card for himself. However, when he went to collect his pin number from the bank, the bank manager said Sidim had no right to apply for the card in the first place due to his condition.

“I argued with him that I was given the application form by the bank employee and the person was aware of my condition. But the manager refused to give me the pin number,” said Sidim.

Mokhtar Soom, 53, experienced other issues with the local bank services.

He was made to get a waiting number and had to wait for his turn as there were no special counters for the disabled and the elderly.

“I can hear the number being announced but how am I suppose to know the number on my ticket? There are some banks with special counters which makes it convenient for us.

“On another incident, when I went to apply for a housing loan, I was told by the staff member to bring three copies of the sales and purchase agreement but when I returned with it, they refused to give me a loan saying that I was an ‘income earner’. Isn’t that a good thing,” said Mokhtar.

For Gunabal Govindasamy he felt that the banks have marginalised the blind by not allowing them to own an independent bank account.

He said banks were only interested in its own security.

“Some of us are lucky to have ATM cards as these banks most probably overlooked our condition. And we know how to use these cards at the ATM machine because we have memorised the procedures. Otherwise, there is no Braille on the punch points or any voice system like it is in Singapore,” he said.

Govindasamy added that they had been e-mailing the Bank Negara and the Finance Ministry about their banking problems but nothing had been done so far.

“Due to this discrimination we have not been able to make progress in our business ventures. It has also led us be victims of house robberies, snatch thefts because we are forced to keep our cash with us,” he said.