Barclays has announced that it will join the Royal National Institute of Blind People's Make Money Talk campaign and introduce "talking ATMs" by the end of next year. The RNIB is trying to make cash machines more accessible to almost 400,000 registered blind and partially sighted people in the UK. About 2 million people are visually impaired.
Speech output will provided via audio jacks to preserve confidentiality. Users will need to carry earbuds or headphones, and plug them in to listen to the various options being read out.
This is by no means a guarantee of success. A well-known YouTube video (below) shows an American user, BlindFilmCritic, struggling to plug in his headphones: "Why can't I find the stupid hole?"
Interest in talking ATMs goes back at least a decade. In 2000, Diebold, the large American ATM manufacturer, was sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because its machines could not easily be accessed by blind users. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) dropped the lawsuit in 2002 when the two agreed to work together to develop a cost-effective solution.
Although some ATMs already had Braille keypads, the NFB argued that this was "an ineffective accommodation under the ADA".
The RNIB's Make Money Talk (PDF) campaign says there are 100,000 talking ATMs in the US, compared with "just 69" out of about 64,000 ATMs in the UK. This is shocking because many of the ATMs are operated by the same banking groups, and even in the UK, many new ATMs already have audio jacks. However, the feature has either not been enabled or needs a software update to enable it.
While Barclays is to be applauded for joining the RNIB campaign, it's shocking that only the Belfast-based Northern Bank has made a significant effort without being prompted by a national campaign.
The RNIB says:
"We believe that the banks have been under a legal obligation to plan for improvements to the accessibility of their ATM network since 1995 when the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) first came in to force. Furthermore, they have been under a duty to provide auxiliary aids and services which would enable or facilitate disabled people’s access to their services since 1999 and to make alterations to physical barriers which prevented disabled people from accessing their services since 2004. "In our view the continued inaccessibility of ATMs to blind and partially sighted people is likely to be a breach of banks’ legal obligations under the Equality Act (previously under the DDA)."
The RNIB's Talking cash machine campaign encourages users to complain to their banks.
How Blind People Use The ATM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dQuAGJakHM