Self-service kiosks are used widely than we thought few years back. In this article I want to take you through the current accessibility state of the self-service kiosks. The benefits, accessibility problems and the currently available standards in this innovative area of business.
Except for the bank ATMs in India there are no much efforts in making accessibility for the self-service kiosks though the usage has been drastically increased. Though I was observing these machines for few years, no thought has popped-up in my mind until my recent travel.
Last month I have to travel from India to United States, California. This is a two week trip for attending the 33rd CSUN Assistive Technology Conference and a week at our San Francisco office. In this trip I have experienced good number of self-service kiosks. Undoubtedly these self-service kiosks have lot of benefits. However their usage is extremely difficult in many cases impossible due to the accessibility barriers.
Let me give some examples where I have tough time using self-service kiosks so far in my day-to-day life.
- In the mobile operator service stores, as we walk-in one need to take a token for getting on the queue for customer care executive. These machines are self-service. They do not have a voice out-put to aid customers with blindness. I doubt if a low vision person can use it comfortably during the day light.
- Bar code scanners in movie theatres, self-check-in kiosks at the airports. Extremely difficult to point the barcode to get the scan either a m ticket or the physical boarding pass.
- ATMs in India are made accessible to certain extent. I often observe physical barriers for a wheel-chair user to get on to the ATM but these are well advocated in the banking industry in India. XRCVC have developed this website Talking ATM, that helps the users to locate the nearest talking ATM. This reminds me the need of letting the users know that the machines have accessibility features exist and a manual to help them use it.
- In the railway stations to get a platform ticket. Self-service kiosks are also installed for the passengers to find the train running information.
- Coffee vending machines anywhere and everywhere.
- I have not come across in India but retail stores such as Dominos have introduced self-service kiosks to help their customers conveniently book the pizza.
And the list goes on.
Benefits of self-service kiosks
Though I am talking only about my barriers, these self-service kiosks are extremely helpful in many cases. Of course that’s the reason the use of them has increased.
- People with speech and hearing difficulty can easily utilize the self-service kiosks.
- People who finds difficult to pronounce certain products can select from the catalog without much difficulty.
- Self-service kiosks can display options in multiple languages which will be difficult for a human to handle.
- The process will be accurate, fast and easy.
Accessibility barriers with self-service kiosks
While undoubtedly many problems can be solved with the self-service kiosks, significant barriers are imposed on users with disabilities with these new technologies.
- Not having audio out-put denying users with blindness operate them.
- Not having braille or embossed on physical buttons for users with blindness to provide input to the machines.
- Not providing enough space for wheel-chair users to access the machine sitting in their wheel chair.
- Reasonable height for every one including the wheel-chair users to access all the features of the machine.
- Not having enough contrast of the text from background or font-resize options making it difficult to low vision and age old users.
- Difficulties for users with blindness using the passport reader or card reader features of the machines.
- Not having enough guidance or instructions for users with cognitive difficulties to perform the functions on the machine.
The list might be more. I might not be aware of many of the problems in real time.
The standards for self-service kiosks
The US Department Of Transportation (DOT) in the Air Carrier Accessibility Act (ACAA) proposed some standards for the self-service kiosks (PDF). The WCAG 2.0 standards can also be applied for the self-service kiosks as these standards are not technology specific and widely talks about the digital content.
Other than these two, there are no specific accessibility standards in the space of self-service kiosks.
All the links below navigate to external websites.
- Accessible self-service kiosks can help innovate business
- Considerations for accessible self-service kiosks
- How to make self-service kiosks accessible
- Making self-service kiosks accessible (PDF)