Friday, October 29, 2010

So that's why they do it!

I'd always wondered why there were Braille instructions provided on drive-through automatic teller machines. After all, a blind person can hardly drive through them, can he? It turns out there's a good reason, after all.

Mainly, it is because it is required by law, thanks to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities. There are certain exceptions, in terms of these requirements, when it comes to drive-up ATMs vs. walk up ATMs, such as the differing requirements on the “Reach Ranges” in section 4.34.3. However, being able to get rid of the Braille is not one of these exceptions, despite initial protests from the American Banker’s Association who argued that any visually impaired person could simply get the driver to help. The committee in charge of coming up with these standards rejected this argument because it would no longer allow a visually impaired person to use the ATM independently.

Blind people actually do use the drive up ATMs all the time too, contrary to what many people think. It’s not uncommon at all for them to run errands in a taxi-cab, for instance. When they do, a drive up ATM is certainly more convenient for a blind person, given someone can drive them right up to the ATM, and they probably wouldn’t want to trust the cab driver with their card and pin number.

Up until somewhat recently though, a more interesting question would have been, “why do even walk up ATMs have Braille when many ATMs don’t have any facility for letting the blind person know what was happening on the screen?” This situation has since been improved, but for a long time, there were no set way to make the interaction with the ATM, beyond the Braille, accessible to the visually impaired. Initially, no one was really sure what the best way to handle this aspect of accessibility would be, so the Accessibility Guidelines didn’t address it. ... today there also generally is some sort of audible system to let the visually impaired user know what’s happening the screen (usually through a headphone jack, for privacy).

There's more at the link. The site also provides these interesting factoids, amongst others:

  • The most northern ATM in the world is in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway, which is about half way between Norway and the North Pole (about 800 miles from the North Pole).
  • The most southern ATM is located in McMurdo Station, Antarctica, which is about 840 miles from the South Pole.
  • The world’s highest ATM is in Nagchu County, Tibet and is about 14,800 above sea level.
  • The world’s lowest ATM is in Ein Bokek, near the Dead Sea in a grocery store that is just shy of 1400 feet below sea level.

The things you learn out of the blue!


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