By Rebecca Ejifoma
Championing a world of total inclusion and equal opportunity for persons with visual impairment has been the core mandate of the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB) since its establishment in 1968.
This time, however, while technology is rapidly growing exponentially, making life and connectivity easier, members of NAB are feeling left out.
Hence, the association has called the attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria to enforce all regulated financial institutions to make their websites, mobile applications, money wallets, and USSD among others to be usable and accessible for persons with disabilities in the country, particularly the blind and other clusters that may have accessibility issues.
Speaking at a media parley on Conducting an Accessibility Audit of Banks’ Websites and Mobile Applications for Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria, its Administrative Officer, Mr Adeola Aina registered their grievances.
Some of the challenges listed are not being able to complete transactions while using the USSD due to timing. “Some of the bank apps can’t be accessed except we are assisted. At times, we have to put off the talk back to access some of the facilities on the app. By doing so, we can’t continue the process because we are unable to see what to click on next. There are so many challenges we are facing I must confess,” he decried.
Aina further noted their demands. “Our demands cut across physical barriers which prevent people with disabilities from entering the banks. People in wheelchairs can’t go into banks. The cashiers’ counters are always too high for dwarfs and such.
“Someone that’s hearing impaired can’t communicate with the bank officials. The blind for instance, have issues around filling tellers, not getting atm cards because of blindness,” he lamented.
Aina, therefore, outlined the need for a policy document that includes people with disabilities in all aspects of financial activities in the country.
The administrative officer noted that they realised that a lot of disabled people were excluded from the things that happen in the financial institutions like physical access to the banks and ATMs. “This audit is for access to websites and apps of the financial institutions. The audit is being sponsored by Disability Rights Funds (DRF).”
Having highlighted the barriers to using bank services and the need to relish the benefits of the financial institutions, a NAB member and computer instructor in a school, Mr Junyde Mohammed Adebowale insisted that persons with visual impairment have the right to make use of their services.
He continued: “They are excluding us because they are not making their application accessible. Recommendation for them is to make their apps and their internet access.”
Mohammed, however, suggested that if banks have a blind person that can help them test this application before they are released to the public that will go a long way.
“We want banks to come to the fact that they have to accept us as one of them. They should stop seeing us as people who cannot use their services like ridiculing us and asking us to use the services with our daughter or with our friends.
“We also have the right to security. We want to do everything by ourselves. In the era of technology that we are in, no blind person should depend on a sighted colleague to make use of the ATM. But the opposite is what we have in Nigeria which is very painful and worrisome,” he decried.
In other countries where this work, the computer instructor admitted that there are laws that will enforce it on banks to make their applications or websites among others accessible.
He suggested: “Inclusion is key in society,” he chipped in. “I think the government can enact laws that can make these things possible so that when the application or the website is not possible to use and the bank is not ready to work on it, you can make a report to the appropriate authority who would then take it up and make sure that this is done.”
Just like other members of the association, Mohammed requested the creation of laws, not just audio laws that can ensure a good life, and inclusion for persons with disability in Nigeria.