x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Middle East's first ATM for blind now in Sharjah

The machine was launched after the Ruler of Sharjah ordered banks to offer more facilities to visually impaired customers.

SHARJAH // The first ATM for the visually impaired officially went online yesterday.

The Sharjah Islamic Bank cash machine - the first of its kind in the Middle East - features a large Braille keypad, high-resolution screen, speakers and a headphone connection to ensure privacy.

The ATM, at the Emirates Association for the Blind's Sharjah headquarters, has fewer options than a regular ATM but can be used by people without sight problems.

Teams from Sharjah Islamic Bank will be on hand to show people how to use it.

Mohammed Abdullah, the CEO of Sharjah Islamic Bank, said the machine was in keeping with the Ruler of Sharjah's wishes to make everyday tasks easier for the visually impaired.

"We are thrilled to launch the first visually impaired-friendly ATM in the region," he said. "We have many reasons to be proud, as we have succeeded to live up to the ambition of His Highness, the Ruler of Sharjah, in serving the visually impaired, who are part and parcel of mainstream society."

Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi recently ordered banks to offer facilities to customers with sight problems. It came in response to a call by Manar Al Hammadi, a blind lawyer working at Sharjah courts, to a local radio talk show, Al Bath Al Mubasher.

Ms Al Hammadi said the ATM would offer much-needed privacy and independence to visually impaired people.

"I always hated being assisted by someone who would then have full knowledge of my account balance and transactions," she added.

Adel Al Zamar, the vice chairman of Sharjah City Humanitarian Service and one of the first blind people to use the machine, said he was grateful to the authorities.

"The launch of this service reflects both the interest of decision makers in the role of the visually impaired, and the commitment to help, support and take extra care of this important segment of society," he added. "This step is a good omen of many other services to come. The initiative demonstrates the bank's leadership in offering this high-end service, which significantly benefits the Emirates Association for the Blind."

ykakande@thenational.ae