A.T.M.s for visually impaired users get noticed
Tracy Kitten;; June 8, 2005
Audio-enabled A.T.M.s, or automated teller machines, have been on the market for a while, but A.T.M. users rarely run across them. Some financial institutions have initiated pilots but most of those initiatives have fallen off the radar.
That has been especially true in the United States , where text-to-speech technology has been introduced but not exploited.
During the late 1990s, the technology was introduced at the A.T.M. But it wasn't practical, and financial institutions soon lost interest. Advancements have been made in Australia , but other parts of the world have been slow to catch on.
That's changing in Europe , however, experts say.
Garth Graham is an ATM project manager for National Australia Group (N.A.G.) and Copenhagen, Denmark-based Danske Group (D.G.) - both are banking companies. Graham is overseeing the installation of London, Ontario-based Phoenix Interactive Design Inc.'s text-to-speech software at bank A.T.M.s for NAG and DG in the United Kingdom and Ireland . "When you look at the number of visually impaired people in the U.K. , the number is huge," he says. "It's a lot of people, and a large majority of those people have not been able to use machines. We should be able to accommodate them, but up to this point, we haven't."
Four European banks, which have 1,200 A.T.M.s combined, are expected to upgrade A.T.M.s across the network with text-to-speech software over the next 12 months to 18 months. In Ireland , where Northern Bank and National Irish Bank have 300 A.T.M.s, about 30 machines should be upgraded within two years.
According to the European Blind Union, there are about 1.1 million visually impaired people in the U.K. In the United States , there are an estimated 6.8 million, according to the National Federation of the Blind.
European banks are more concerned about accommodation as a general rule than in the U.S.A. And until they are pushed to make changes, they won't.
That is primarily because no clear Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines have been set. It's too expensive for an FI to make an investment in standards that are "a little gray". Says Chris Klein, executive vice president of marketing for Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based Mosaic Software Inc., an S1 company, "In Europe, the difference is that they're in a situation where they're doing it more to stand out and differentiate themselves and to provide more inclusive services (than to meet regulations or requirements)."