Accessibility Issues for Self-Service
It is estimated that there are 65 million disabled people in the EU, which is a huge potential customer base for those self-service solutions that are accessible to all. Unsurprisingly, when discussing the accessibility of self-service solutions, it is the point of interaction – the point at which the user interacts with the kiosk – which is crucial. But one thing to stress when discussing accessibility of self-service solutions is that this isn’t just concerned with people with disabilities, but also includes those who are less technologically savvy. In fact, all self-service solutions should favour ease of use and ergonomics as good accessibility is an advantage for all users.
There are a number of ways in which accessibility can be improved, encompassing the hardware, software and physical location of the kiosk.
Standardisation activities, such as those concerned with ergonomics, operating systems and user interfaces, are essential to ensure the best possible use of self-service terminals. It is already recommended that ticketing kiosks should have the tactile contact area at a height between 700mm and 1200mm, so that it can be used by people standing in front of the kiosk and also in a wheelchair. But, the lack of appropriate standards on accessibility of self-service solutions does make it difficult for manufacturers to design such terminals.
As the development of accessible self-service solutions is rather costly and time-consuming, it is crucial that governments work closely with the industry to participate in this development, as the EC is doing at the moment. The lack of a specific regulatory framework does make it more difficult to include accessibility in the terminal specifications and requirements.
Christian Göbel, Head of Business Development, Wincor Nixdorf, explained at the EC Workshop on Self-Service Terminals and Assistive Technologies last December that companies in this market would benefit from clear guidelines, e.g. a defined position for function keys on ATMs. A major problem, though, is that different stakeholders often have different requirements. Wincor Nixdorf implements what their customers, e.g. banks, require but sometimes the customer’s software is not tailored to implement the accessibility features. Accessibility features do also present an additional cost and should be designed for an international market.
There are many ways in which the ergonomics of a self-service solution can be made more user-friendly and adaptive to allow for the physical capabilities of users. The height of the kiosk and position of components such as the screen, keyboard, card slot and printer output can be optimised or made adjustable and different interfaces, RS232, USB, infrared, wifi, Bluetooth, can be implemented. A mixture or option of visual, speech-based, avatar-based and haptic interfaces can make a kiosk accessible to all users. In addition, with the ubiquity of mobile phones, there is the possibility to incorporate the mobile as an interface.
Höft and Wessel have worked on their popular travel and transport kiosks with the aim of sticking to a universal design so that as many people as possible can use them without the need for adaption or specialisation. They have supplied intelligent solutions for handicapped users at places such as Hannover train station and for the Danish State Railway, where audio response, a four corner menu and easier coin slot are some of the features which make the kiosk more user friendly. Additional features that can be integrated are a Braille inlay and wheelchair pedestal. These kiosks, though, do not always provide full functionality.
Parkeon have designed a self-service terminal which is operated using a single knob to navigate the screen which works in conjunction with speech output via a headphone socket. One application used in Paris’ underground for blind people and partially sighted users helps them to purchase tickets and re-load credit via a contactless card.
Visa Europe is actively involved in standards process through both CEN and ISO. There is an opportunity for transactions where cards are involved to adapt the user interface through information stored on the card.
Assistance: canine partners
The charity’s dogs are trained to match the applicant’s needs and lifestyle, performing tasks such as opening and closing doors, unloading the washing machine, picking up items, pressing buttons and switches, etc. The dogs are also trained to insert the card at an ATM for the user and collect money and receipts, which are actions that might require a wheelchair user to reach further than entering their PIN.
Some interoperability devices offer a way to overcome barriers of accessibility by creating a common gateway through which different electronic devices can be controlled through an adapted user interface. This kind of device has been successful in home automation scenarios, but is not so well suited to more complex scenarios such as the operation of self-service solutions. Security, in addition, is a particular challenge for the integration of such devices with activities that involve financial transactions.
Interoperability is particularly important to ensure consistent user interfaces across different kinds of kiosks and across different EU countries. The EC has made up to €5 million available for projects in this area and another €1 million for accessibility portal proposals which focus on a single entry point for information on accessible devices and solutions.
Self-service terminals are designed to enable users to perform transactions for themselves. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to have self-service terminals which a user would need assistance to operate. While there is a huge number of factors to consider in the accessibility of self-service solutions, it is certainly true that the simpler and the more accessible the application, the better for all. The coming years will bring new standards and legislation in the accessibility of self-service solutions as well as technological innovation and market collaboration.
Case Study: LaCaixa, Spain
LaCaixa is the third largest ATM network in the EU, with over six million users. Up to 60% of their ATMs meet the accessibility standards of Barcelona Digital and 85% of their branches are accessible.
ATMs are usually expensive and are often installed for ten years or more. During this time, technologies may change and also installation standards. laCaixa found that the quickest way to improve the accessibility of their ATMs was to adapt the software. For example, for the visually impaired, they implemented high contrast menus in 7,500 of their ATMs and audio transactions in 3,000. For deaf users, videos with sign language instructions were installed in 3,000 ATMs to enable users to withdraw money and access their account statements. One of the software changes that they made to the most number of their ATMs was to introduce large buttons on the touchscreen which had one function. This made the ATMs much easier for the older generations to use as it kept the application and interface as simple as possible.
When carrying out these improvements in their network, they focused on the fact that for the solution to be accessible, it had to combine three elements:
- The physical accessibility of the location: the branch or store design, whether there are any doors or steps. A kiosk, for instance, which can be used by a person in a wheelchair would be rather redundant if it was placed up a flight of stairs.
- Accessibility of the hardware design: the ergonomic design, installation height, physical interface, technical aides such as audio.
- Software design: usability, adapted transactions, high contrast menus, audio support.
Barcelona Digital has conducted a research study into the accessibility of ATM devices with laCaixa to offer design guidelines for the construction of accessible ATMs and also participated in a project to develop interoperability and accessible frameworks to improve the daily activities of people with disabilities.