S. Raja, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Crawling Differently Abled Persons Federation, says that withdrawing money through an automated teller machine (ATM) is a nightmare.
He says that every time he wants to withdraw money, he gives the ATM card along with the PIN to a stranger.
I anxiously wait outside the ATM booth and constantly peer at my mobile phone to check for a message from the bank. During that time my heartbeat rises tremendously, he says.
With no or few facilities made for the differently abled, ATMs, a vital financial component in the digitalised era, still remains inaccessible to them.
Most of the facilities do not have ramps or handrails, which facilitates easy entry for the differently abled, says S. Boopathy, president, Tamil Nadu Physically Handicapped Associations Service Federation.
Only a handful of ATM booths like the ones in Mattuthavani and Nagamalai Pudukottai have ramps, but even they are not wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, he says.
Several other differently abled persons say that the heavy glass door at the ATM booths is hindering their entry into the facilities. After a great struggle, even when we reach the door, we need external help to enter the facility, says Mr. Raja.
Since the card inserting slots of the ATMs are high, they become inaccessible to the crawlers, says Mr. Boopathy. If wheelchairs are present at every facility, then the crawlers can use that to reach the machines, he adds.
When there is a cry for financial inclusion throughout the country, they are left out of it, complains A. Senthilnathan, a differently abled person. He recalls his tormenting experience when he entered an ATM booth for the first time. As I struggled to stand on the slippery floor, my left leg hit the machine and it suddenly raised an alarm. Then I had to prove my innocence to the security guard, to be let free. Since then, I have never used the ATM, he says.
K. Srikanth, a person with locomotor disability, works as a manager at a private organisation which employs 60 differently abled women. He says that though all employees have bank accounts and ATM cards, salary is given in cash to them every month. Since the facilities are unreachable, they depend on their husbands to withdraw money. Many of them withdraw the money and use it for purchasing alcohol, he says. If they use the ATMS, they can at least save money every month, he adds.
Mr. Boopathy says that banks must be permitted to set up an ATM booth only if they are disabled friendly. They must have proper ramps with handrails, accessible doors and wheelchairs at the facility, he says.
K. Arivazhagan, Lead District Manager, says that in the next bankers meet, grievances of the differently abled will be submitted and he assures that necessary action will be taken.