ATMs and banks in Kerala don't have ramps or facilities for persons with disabilities, says Monu Varghese.

Struggling without cash wheelchair-bound activist appeals to PM for better access to banks
news Demonetisation Thursday, November 24, 2016 - 19:07

The demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes has proved a task for many across the country, who have been forced to stand in kilometre-long queues for several hours at a stretch. But for those like Monu Varghese from Thiruvananthapuram, demonetisation has caused undue inconvenience.

The 27-year-old accountant is, in his own words, “a physically challenged person bound to the wheelchair, but liberated in will.” Suffering from Meningomyelocele, a birth defect resulting in an incomplete spinal canal, Monu points out that ATMs and banks in Kerala don’t have ramps or facilities for persons with disabilities (PwD), making monetary transactions especially difficult.

“Usually, the banks or ATMs are not disabled friendly, preventing us from entering or lining up to take out money for our daily needs. So, we would have to wait outside until someone comes to help us. Also, the process of making someone else, be it family or friends withdraw money on our behalf is so twisted and tiresome. From issuing authorisation letters to fetching identity proofs, it creates a lot of hassle”, explains Monu.

Demanding that public spaces be made more accessible for the differently-abled, the PwD activist has written a letter of appeal to the Prime Minister.

While the PwD activist says he supports the idea of going cashless and the use of plastic money, he points out that the lack of infrastructure, not just at banks but in many public places, has curtailed his independence.  

“Firstly, I can’t move around freely, or go to places that I want to without help, because most public spaces are not disabled friendly. Yes, it's true that demonetization has pushed the use of debit or credit cards forward, but if I want to use it, I atleast need to be able to enter the banks or ATMs first, right?” he points out.

Although the RBI had passed a circular in April 2009, informing all banks and ATMs to have wheelchair accessibility, this rule remains largely on paper.

Monu says that persons with disabilities deserve to live a normal independent life and all it requires is infrastructure and sensitivity. He observes, “Why do we have to depend on a bank staff or someone to come and help us do such a simple task. We are not beggars, we are common citizens of India, why aren’t we given an equal opportunity to lead a normal life. All you have to do is make the public spaces more accessible to us. And in this case, it is the banks and ATMs.”

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