Automated kiosks and accessibility

Automated kiosks are a relatively new method of delivering information and services, however in the last few years they have been increasingly used for a wide range of purposes including, providing government information, check-ins at the airport and hiring videos.

In Australia, and elsewhere, it appears that currently there are few government guidelines or regulations that relate specifically to the accessibility of kiosks. However, in a number of countries (including Australia) there are guidelines relating to the accessibility of ATMs and ITMs (information/transaction machines) and these guidelines are being increasingly applied to kiosks.

In Ontario, Canada, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) requires government and public sector organizations to include accessibility features in self-service kiosks they design or buy. While urging all organisations to consider the accessibility of their kiosks, it appears that the IASR does not specify which accessibility features must be included in self-service kiosks.

In the US, recent action to improve the accessibility of kiosks has taken several forms. At the end of 2013, the US Department of Transport announced it was amending its rules to require US and foreign airlines to improve the accessibility of kiosks over a period of time. However, the National Federation of the Blind, felt that the proposed changes were insufficient, “by allowing continued discrimination against blind passengers based on spurious assertions by the airline industry that making kiosks accessible will cost too much and take a decade.” In January 2014, the NFB filed a law suit against the Department of Transport asking the court to set aside the new rules because, “it denies blind people’s full access to the kiosks.” (http://skift.com/2014/01/22/national-federation-of-the-blind-sues-dot-on-airline-kiosk-access/)

Also in the US, the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (LBVI), and others, filed a class action lawsuit in 2012 against Redbox claiming their self-service DVD kiosks with touch-screen controls exclude people who are blind or visually impaired.  According to Michael Nunez, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, “This is a trend not unique to Redbox. Seeing kiosk technology propagated through airports, restaurants and shopping centers – it’s a big concern that these technologies have a design that doesn’t consider accessibility.” (https://www.ssbbartgroup.com/blog/2012/01/16/redbox-sued-over-inaccessible-kiosks/)

The European Union (EU) is funding a range of projects in the Digital Agenda for Europe program. This includes providing half the budget for to the “APSIS4All” project which aims to design personalised interfaces, including contactless cards, to help overcome existing accessibility barriers. Currently there are trials of cash dispensers in Spain, and ticket vending machines in Germany as part of the project.

In Australia, it appears that concerns about the inaccessibility of kiosks have been on the agenda of the Human Rights Commission since at least 2000:
Over time, the distinction between an Automatic Teller Machine and an information kiosk will continue to blur, making access to cash and financial services potentially more complex. Currently, it is due to the relatively limited range of services and options offered by current ATM units that allows some people with disabilities to perform some ATM transactions with reasonable levels of success. Of course, as discussed [elsewhere in this paper], this access is still difficult, may result in additional expense, and usually relies heavily on the person’s memory.”

Accessibility of electronic commerce and new service and information technologies for older Australians and people with a disability.”
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 31 March 2000.

In general, it appears that most of the accessibility concerns relating to automated public kiosks fall into two broad categories:

  • Kiosk environment and structure: This includes the location of the kiosk and providing ease of access for all people, including wheels chair users, the elderly and people with impaired vision. Also, covers the physical structure of the kiosk, such as the height and angle of the screen and keyboard, as well as the provision of headphone outputs and in some cases assistive keyboards.
  • Screen interface: This includes the size and colour of the text and buttons on the screen, clear identification of form inputs, the use of language that is easy to understand, and the provision of audio alternatives for all information or functionality conveyed by images or text. In addition, there should be a facility for people to increase the amount of time needed to complete a task and the ability to review, verify or revise any transactions.

It appears that the physical structure of kiosks, and the environment in which they are used, are often covered by government regulations concerning disability access to facilities in the built environment. However when it comes to the accessibility of the kiosk interface, there are few if any specific regulations, but WCAG 2.0 appears to be a good starting point, particularly if the kiosk is basically providing access to online content such as government information, ticketing/timetable systems and banking services.

In the opinion of the Australian Human Rights Commission, all online services are covered by the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and should be accessible:
The provision of information and online services through the web is a service covered by the DDA. Equal access for people with a disability in this area is required by the DDA where it can reasonably be provided. This requirement applies to any individual or organisation developing a website or other web resource in Australia, or placing or maintaining a web resource on an Australian server. This includes web pages and other resources developed or maintained for purposes related to employment; education; provision of services including professional services, banking, insurance or financial services, entertainment or recreation, telecommunications services, public transport services, or government services; sale or rental of real estate; sport; activities of voluntary associations; or administration of Commonwealth laws and programs. All these are areas specifically covered by the DDA.”

Australian Human Rights Commission
World Wide Web Access:  Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes (Version 4.0)

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