Banking industry report sets roadmap towards inclusive Financial Services-Persons with Disabilities
The Kenya banking sector has reaffirmed its commitment to enhance service delivery for Persons living With Disabilities (PWDs) as part of its long-term strategic objective to entrench financial services across the country.
This follows the official release of the Persons With Disabilities (PWD) Pilot Project Report by the Central Bank of Kenya Governor, Dr. Patrick Njoroge, during a virtual event that brought together banking industry players and partners.
The report, based by a study coordinated by Kenya Bankers Association in partnership with the Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSD Kenya) and non-profit inABLE, seeks to promote financial deepening in the country especially for PWDs.
A product of a four-month long project conducted by seven banks in Kenya, the report highlights the challenges experienced by PWDs in accessing financial services and provides recommendations on strategies of enhancing service delivery to PWDs. The banks that participated in the pilot study were: Absa Bank, Co-Operative Bank, Equity Bank, Family Bank, KCB, Bank Rafiki Microfinance Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank.
Speaking during the launch ceremony, KBA Governing Council Chairman Mr. Joshua Oigara said the report offers the sector a roadmap to ensure that it fully caters for the needs of PWDs. "At the core of this whole conversation is to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to live up to their potential.
Just like anyone else, when there are no barriers in their way, persons with disabilities are employees, entrepreneurs, consumers, and taxpayers, along with everybody else. It is important that we remove the barriers that prevent them from accessing financial services," he said.
On his part, KBA Chief Executive Officer Dr. Habil Olaka said the sector's commitment is anchored on its shared approach to uphold the principles of equality and inclusion towards all persons in the society including persons with disabilities.
"The project assessed the overall experience for banking clients with hearing (deaf and hard of hearing), visual (blind and low vision) and physical disabilities. The assessment covered four main areas which included whether Clients with Disabilities can access banking services independently, whether banks understand the needs of Clients with Disabilities and finally we sought to understand whether banks actually respect Clients with Disabilities," he said.
FSD Kenya CEO Ms. Tamara Cook highlighted the need for banks to put in place mechanisms that ensure that persons with disabilities are included in Kenya's digital evolution and revolution. Banks and other financial service providers should put the needs of persons with disabilities at the fore when designing products and services, especially digital services, as stipulated in the report's recommendations by end of First Quarter 2021.
"Looking at the findings of this report, it will be encouraging for banks to develop an accessibility roadmap to ensure all customers have access to banking halls and digital services. With the commitment that the sector has expressed, I am hopeful that we will soon see efforts to accommodate the needs of PWDs," she said.
InABLE Executive Director Ms. Irene Mbari-Kirika rallied banks to set policies in place that will transition their banking services and technologies to suit the requirements of PWDs. The report calls for banks to outline how they will improve their websites, mobile applications, and written electronic banking documents to be accessible in line with internationally recognised best practice accessibility standards," she noted.
The digital accessibility assessment also recommends that banks should immediately issue ATM cards to all customers with disabilities, and make ATMs accessible to all customers, including those with visual and mobility impairments. Further, it calls for the training of banking staff on basic sign language.
The report was unveiled a day prior to the commemoration of this year's International Day of Persons with Disabilities whose theme is: "Building Back Better: Towards An Inclusive, Accessible And Sustainable Post COVID-19 World By, For And With Persons With Disabilities." Part of the report's recommendations include that banks start observing this day and promote financial services accessibility for PWDs during the month of December.