About Public Access Terminals Accessibility
The goal is to ensure that information or services delivered through a public access terminal are available to and usable by the widest possible audience. This requires that the following five conditions are met:
- All users can get to the installed terminal without hindrance
- All users can reach and operate the controls, inputs and outputs
- All users can perceive and understand the operation of controls, inputs and outputs
- The user interface is consistent across functions, repeated visits and different installations
- For users who cannot use the terminal, an equivalent alternative service is available
To achieve this, the design must take into account the fact that the ability to see, hear, make inputs, read text or process information varies from user to user, across time and across situations of use.
Sometimes there are steps up to an ATM so I can't get to it. Or even if I can, it's difficult to get close enough if things like advice slip bins are in the way." - wheelchair user
Users who have a permanent or temporary condition which restricts their mobility may need to use a wheelchair, a motorised buggy or crutches to move around. If there are barriers in the way to the terminal, such as steps, posts or signage, it may be difficult or even impossible for them to get to it. These hindrances may also cause problems for people with restricted vision, particularly those who are totally blind.
"The biggest problem with card readers for opening doors is that they are positioned at a height I can't reach, or somewhere I can't manoeuvre into easily, like a corner." - wheelchair user
Even if they can reach the terminal, users who operate it from a low position, such as a wheelchair, may then have difficulty reaching to put in cards or money, operate the controls, see the display or retrieve tickets, receipts and change. Users who are extremely short or extremely tall may have similar problems.
Some users have restricted movement or control of their limbs, particularly their arms, hands and fingers. This might be due to a medical condition, injury or even old age. Many older people, for example, have reduced strength and dexterity or even a slight hand tremor. Small controls or ones that are very close together may be too fiddly for them to operate without accidentally activating two at once or hitting the wrong one by mistake. Anything that requires using force, pulling, gripping or twisting may also be difficult.
"At the bank, when I'm paying a bill and I have to enter my PIN number on the little keypad they have on the counter. The keys are grey and the numbers on the keys are black, so it's hard to read. Also, the keys are very close together so it's difficult to see one from the other." - partially sighted customer
Users who are blind or partially sighted may have problems perceiving the various parts of the terminal. They may have difficulty seeing the slots for inserting cards and money, the controls and what they are for, visual displays of prompts and information or outputs such as tickets, receipts and change.
"Queuing systems are a problem. The Revenue one is good because it speaks out "ticket number 42 to desk 7". But in other places I have to listen out for the number of times the counter clicks forward and sometimes I lose count and miss my turn." - partially sighted customer
The key to serving these users' needs is to make sure visual prompts and information are clearly presented and to offer the same information in a format that can be perceived by a non-sighted person - tactile or audio. For example, Braille can be used on buttons and spoken instructions and outputs can be provided along with the visual display.
"Light and reflections are always a problem due to the viewing angle. If you are looking down, your shadow covers the screen. Imagine you are sitting and have to stretch your head to see the screen. Once I withdrew too much money because I couldn't see the screen properly." - partially sighted customer
It is worth remembering that partially sighted also includes anyone who has temporarily lost or forgotten their glasses or anyone who is operating the terminal in an environment where there is either insufficient light or too much glare from the sun.
Users who are deaf or hard of hearing may have problems perceiving information that is presented audibly. This may be in the form of warning beeps or voiced instructions. It can also be quite subtle, such as the noise of the receipt printer or the ticket output motor. Without hearing these sounds, the user might not be aware that something has happened.
These users' needs can be met by simply ensuring that all audible prompts and information are supplemented by visual indicators.
It is also worth remembering that all users' hearing is impaired in noisy environments such as train stations and shopping centres. Conversely, in a quiet environment such as a library, the sound may be turned down or the loudspeakers could be disconnected.
Cognitive and learning considerations
" A friend taught me how to use the ATM near my office but I can't use any others because they all seem to work differently. I just hope they don't decide to update the one I use." - bank customer
Some users may have difficulty dealing with letters, words and numbers or understanding instructions, concepts and procedures. Often these users are in all other respects highly intelligent. This can be a particular problem if the terminal changes the instructions or procedure for a particular task from one visit to the next, or if a different procedure is used on different terminals. People with cognitive or learning impairments often rely on carrying out simple procedures by rote, so if the required procedure for a task changes or extra steps are inserted, this can throw them. The same is true for blind users, who can often carry out routine tasks perfectly well as long as the steps remain the same.
" Sometimes there might be an extra message. I think it might be about the notes that are available. And that can disrupt the sequence I've learnt." - bank customer
The key is to maintain consistency. Consistency between tasks, between terminals and between visits to a given terminal. This will also be of tremendous benefit to the average user who, whilst not being permanently impaired, may well at times be tired, stressed or in a hurry, all of which affect cognition. In addition, there are many, particularly older, users who use public access terminals rarely and may find them intimidating, simply because they are not familiar with them.
People who do not speak English as their first language or who do not read very well may find it difficult to use a terminal if it uses complex language for instructions or outputs. 25% of the Irish population are "functionally illiterate", meaning that while they can read to some degree, they would have difficulty reading a newspaper, filling in a form or following the instructions on a medicine bottle. The trick is to keep it simple.
Other sources of information
Public access terminals Accessibility guidelines from Tiresias An information resource intended for professionals in the field of visual disabilities, but with a much wider coverage in practice.
Kiosk Accessibility guidelines from Trace One of the major centres of research on I.T. Accessibility.