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ATM keyboardPhoto by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Using banking services is a necessary and constant element of everyday life, where cash withdrawal is quite a basic activity. It would seem simple, yet not equally so for everyone.

Problem with ATMs

As a blind person, I often have to find workarounds or solutions to seemingly typical daily situations. One of the more troublesome ones is the ability to use an ATM. You might say to me now, “Dude, what are you pondering about? Where to look for solutions? Just go to the mall and it’s sorted. After all, there’s an ATM in every one. Plus, you’ll find them next to supermarkets, bank branches, and many other places.”
Unfortunately, this is where the difficulties start. Not every such device is adapted for a blind person to use independently. Let’s agree – you don’t always go somewhere with a trusted person who can help, but asking someone on the street… well, I think you’ll agree that it’s not very safe. Not to mention, quite uncomfortable.

How do I withdraw cash?

How do I check which ATM I can use? The simplest way is to determine if it has a headphone jack in an accessible location. When I use the audio-enabled device, voice commands guide me through the entire process.
When I plug the headphones into the ATM, the system recognizes that it is to use speech synthesis. Then, I only need my card, a numeric keypad with three buttons on the side, and a moment of time. So, I navigate through each set of options roughly the same way you would use voicemail, for example. I press the appropriate key on the numeric keypad and confirm the action if necessary with the green button with a circle.
To better illustrate this, I recorded a short video on the subject.
Could every ATM be adapted? Well, I couldn’t say. Unfortunately, I’m not their manufacturer, but I would like to believe that this task wouldn’t be particularly difficult. Especially since the necessary technology is already available on the market.

Accessibility Issue

So how do you find out where and if there are ATMs adapted to the needs of blind people in a particular location? Over the years, there have been numerous grassroots initiatives where users of such devices exchanged information on this matter. Unfortunately, ATMs are periodically replaced, just like any other equipment used by many people. This means that after a while, information about their location becomes outdated. Furthermore, in the era of widespread outsourcing, banks often entrust the care of their ATM networks to external providers. This makes it even harder to determine which ATM in a given location is accessible to a blind person.
Of course, many transactions or settlements, including with friends, are possible today without cash. However, it would be good to have the option to use an audio-enabled ATM while traveling or on vacation. And, let’s add, independently. After all, finances are a very personal matter. Banks themselves advise against trusting third parties. After all, why provoke loved ones into unwanted behavior? I would definitely prefer independence.
Below, I’m including a short video showing you how I use an ATM.

Łukasz Stanik

Łukasz Stanik

Accessibility Specialist