Rwanda: Visually Impaired Decry Inaccessibility of ATMs

Pierre Nyankiko, 37, is visually impaired. He uses his white cane to find his way from home to a nearby Automated Teller Machine (ATM) at a trading centre in Kimironko Sector, Gasabo District.

He is helped to push a door to the ATM booth, and, after entering the room, he cannot even know where to insert his ATM card, let alone transacting so he has to rely on a friend.

"I should know the transaction I have performed and shouldn't be relying on well-wishers, but the way things are, I do not think we are financially included," said Nyankiko, a father of three.

He added: "The status quo beats the whole idea of self-service. We should not be relying on other people to access our accounts," he said adding that it is not unprecedented because there is technology available on the market.

He said their ATM cards can have a system similar to JAWS so that when they use such machines, they talk to them.

Job Access With Speech (JAWS) is a computer screen reader programme for Microsoft Windows that allows visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a refreshable braille display, according to online sources.

"We need talking machines in our banking system because I will not have security for my money when it is someone else withdrawing for me," said Nyakiko as he emerged out of the ATM booth having withdrawn money with help of a friend.

The Executive Secretary of the National Council of Persons with Disabilities, Emmanuel Ndayisaba, told The New Times that in 2016, the council requested that the Ministry of ICT compels banks to consider the visually impaired when issuing ATM cards, as well as other user-friendly ICT equipment including phones.

"We requested the Ministry that they consider it in their ICT policy so that banks which want to import and set up the ATMs make sure that they are accessible to the people with visual impairment through braille, and talking system. That can help them use the machine like other people [without the disability]. We are waiting for the implementation," he said.

Concern to be addressed

Speaking to The New Times, the Chairman of Rwanda Bankers Association, Maurice Toroitich, partially blamed lack of talking machines in the country on the technology that has not been readily available [on the market] up to this point.

"It's obviously something that we are aware of, customers with visual impairment are not able to use ATMs as they should. You know, banks are customers of the manufactures of ATMs. So, banks will use what is available," he said.

He added: "I am sure, if the manufacturers of ATMs were able to bring to the market machines that have braille on the keyboard, and that which can do more of voice than typing, that's what we would definitely consider".

Toroitich, who is also the CEO of Banques Populaire du Rwanda Ltd, said that as people in business, they cannot and should not ignore such customers, saying that they will act fast to adopt inclusive technologies which serve everyone.

"ATMs that allow customers who are visually impaired are not standard yet. But, because of technology advancement, I foresee that the new generation of ATMs will have braille on the keyboard, and can talk. These are things of the future," he said.

Commenting about accessibility of booths, especially for those with difficulties to walk, he said banks should be proactive and innovative in determining location of the machines such that there are easily accessible to people with disabilities.

The Minister for ICT, Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, told The New Times said that some technologies on specific cases have not yet matured for them to be easily accessible on the market, but added they will try to manage the situation.

However, he said, "when you look at money and payment systems, our vision is to achieve cashless economy. In fact, ATMs per se are promoting [use of] cash."

"We will consider technology advancement and how all Rwandans should have equal opportunities as a constitutional principle, and we should be addressing such issues in the policy.

"What we should do is to continue engaging with the council [NCPD] on technologies available for various issues that people [with disabilities] have and see how they can continue being addressed in our policies, but also make sure that it is the right technology given our vision," he said.

Statistics released by the Central Bank on March 6, 2018 indicate that between December 2016 and December 2017, the card payment infrastructure showed a continuous upward growth trend whereby, in terms of usage, the volume of ATMs transactions increased by 15 per cent from 8,200,589 to 9,408,701 while the value increased by 21 per cent from Rwf407 billion to Rwf493 billion.

The number of ATMs grew from 84 in 2010 to 4,004 by December 2016 (6 ATMs per 100,000 adults). POS increased from 99 terminals in 2010 to 1,885 terminals by December 2016 (28 POS per 100,000 adults) with 1,059 merchants accepting payments.

POS increased to 2,104 in 2017, while transactions increased from 660,746 in 2016 to 1,213,853 in 2017 in terms of volume, and from Rwf41.5 billion to Rwf69 billion in terms of value.

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