KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is working on multiple interventions for differently-abled persons to increase their access to banking services and finance.
SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir presented details regarding the interventions to President Dr Arif Alvi in a meeting on Friday.
He gave a detailed presentation on two types of interventions being prepared by the SBP for the differently-abled persons.
These include access to banking premises and services and, providing access to finance through various SBP refinance schemes.
For people facing upper and lower limb challenges, the SBP informed the president about various steps taken by the banks including providing preferential treatment/out of queue assistance, construction of ramps at the entrance of existing branches and ATM cabins to allow easy access to special persons and wheelchair users, relaxation in requirement of biometric verification for account opening and facilitation desks for special persons at the SBP building and its country-wide offices.
Moreover, on the steps taken by the SBP to facilitate persons with visual impairment, Baqir said the special features of currency notes such as size, lines and dots, installation of talking ATMs, provision of ATM/debit and internet banking facilities and countrywide awareness sessions on features of currency notes are some of the steps taken by the bank.
With respect to the second type of interventions, Baqir informed the president regarding two credit schemes supported by the SBP for financial inclusion of differently-abled persons.
The first is the Small Enterprise Financing and Credit Guarantee Scheme, which is available to differently-abled persons holding CNIC with a special logo/symbol for setting up new business enterprises or for expansion of existing ones at a subsidised financing rate of five per cent per annum for the tenor of five years including grace period of up to six months.
The second SBP scheme is Financing Facility of Low Cost Housing for Special Segments including differently-abled persons that provide subsidised loans to widows, children of martyrs, transgender, special persons and persons in the areas severely affected by war against terrorism.
Under the scheme, special segments can avail subsidised financing at 5pc per annum, for 12.5 years including grace period of up to six months.
Sharing central bank’s plans for the future, Baqir said the bank would undertake annual accessibility audit under the already issued guidelines for facilitation of differently-abled persons to enhance compliance. He went on to add that the SBP will direct banks to ensure accessibility for differently-abled persons at all new branch premises and ATM cabins.
SBP will also direct banks to ensure availability of forms/terms and condition documents in braille.
The governor said the SBP would set credit targets for banks under relevant refinance schemes for differently-abled persons by March 31.
President Alvi appreciated central bank steps to increase access to finance and banking services for the differently-abled persons. He called upon the banking sector to come up with some innovative workable ideas and plans to empower this particular segment of society, particularly the women among them.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020