Kiosks All Around
There are kiosks everywhere—self-checkout at grocery stores, check-in at hotels and doctor’s offices, ordering kiosks at restaurants, banking, and retail stores. Often, these kiosks are inaccessible—they lack screen readers, tactile keypads, captions, and other critical accessibility tools. Often, an attendant is unavailable to assist, and the only option is the inaccessible self-service kiosk. As a result of the widespread lack of accessibility and a host of existing rules that touch on kiosk accessibility but do not cohesively address it, the US Access Board is revisiting the existing rules around self-service machines and their accessibility.
Why Are Some Kiosks Inaccessible?
Self-Service Transaction Machines and other Kiosks are often inaccessible for several reasons:
- Kiosks may consist of primarily visual media. Without a speech component, people who are blind or have low vision cannot use the kiosk. Alternatively, some kiosks only have a speech component, which makes them inaccessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Some kiosks leverage only touchscreens for navigating the device and inputting information. Touchscreens are without any tactile discernment and don’t give any guidance for someone who is blind or has low vision, making the kiosk inaccessible.
- The kiosk screen is sometimes too high up, which means that a person using a wheelchair cannot properly view, see or touch the screen.
- A user might need fine motor skills to complete a task on the kiosk, which means that the kiosk is inaccessible to people with limited dexterity.
- Some kiosks time people out after a relatively short time, which can make the kiosk unusable for someone who needs a longer time to complete a task. Sometimes, a person can tap a button in order to not time out. If this button is not audible, then a blind or person with low vision would be timed out.
In response to these accessibility issues, the US Access Board is planning to add to previous rules about kiosks and, in late 2022 solicited public comments on the topic.
To gather pertinent information, the US Access Board hosted two panels. One panel focused on uncovering accessibility issues with kiosks by talking to users with disabilities. The other panel focused on kiosk accessibility from the research and business side.
Laura Boniello Miller, Director of Business Development at Vispero, TPGi’s parent company, presented at this panel about the current status of kiosk accessibility best practices and findings from existing kiosk deployments. Another attendee, representing the Kiosk Manufacturer Association, explained that laws differ between states, vertical markets, (and countries), making it difficult to understand them all. The Association also explained that “the lack of detailed requirements has led to a common misconception that physical accessibility or an audio jack alone is sufficient.” The Board agreed that new standards would focus on being “complete and uniform.”
Current rules about kiosks either focus on ATMs and fare machines, apply specifically to government-funded kiosks, or only apply to airport kiosks. The Board will use previous regulations (Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), as well as the Revised 508 Standards and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)) as inspiration for their new rules.
The board posted a series of questions for the public:
- What should count as a self-service kiosk?
- How many kiosks in each location must be accessible?
- Is using the older regulations as a basis for the new regulations a solid plan?
- In addition to adding new rules, should older rules be updated as well?
- What experiences did people with disabilities and kiosk manufacturers have previously, and how would these new rules positively or negatively affect those experiences?
- How many “smaller entities,” such as, “small businesses, small non-profits, and governmental entities with a population of fewer than 50,000,” would these new rules apply to? How would the rules affect these entities monetarily? Also, how to make paying for accessible kiosks not significantly economically negative for these smaller entities?
- Should accessible kiosks offer contactless payment?
The public comment period has ended, and the Board will now create new kiosk accessibility rules. Stay tuned for more information from this space.
While the absence of cohesive, universally applied kiosk accessibility rules may be confusing for those deploying kiosks without accessibility expertise, there are established best practices and accessibility recommendations to make your kiosk deployment accessible. If you are interested in making your kiosks accessible, TPGi can help with our accessibility consulting and JAWS for Kiosk screen reader software.