presented by Randy Rice
From the Editor: For more than twenty years the National Federation of the Blind has been working to see that automated teller machines can be used by people who cannot see the screen. Initially we were ignored, and jokes circulated about the foolishness of blind people arguing for their right to use the drive-up ATM. But we were not deterred, and much progress has been made in making these machines accessible. On Thursday, July 9, the convention received this upbeat report:
Thank you, President Riccobono, thank you, Dr. Maurer. Before I even start, I don’t know how many people tried to tell me what it was like to come to this event—there’s no way. I’m so touched by how many people came to see us. I just want to share, before I even start--it’s great what you’re doing to help adults, but what really touched me was the kids and the young people that were here, and how you will change their lives. So, with that said, I’m just thrilled to be here.
I met with many of you at our booth this week. We actually did over two hundred demonstrations of our talking ATMS, and I’m so glad that so many of you took time to visit with us and experience what those machines are doing. We really appreciate the feedback that you gave us. Many of you were able to also try out NCR’s new Kalpana ATM of the future. These new ATMs are like merging a tablet PC with a cash dispenser to make an ATM that is more secure, more reliable, more versatile, and more capable than ever before. We’re working jointly with NCR to ensure that these new ATMs are accessible to the blind, and we will be piloting these ATMs in the US market with NCR later this year. For those that tried them, the thing that’s really unique about these ATMs is that they have no keyboard; there’s no keypad. The touchscreen is the only interface.
We’re proud to work with your people in the NFB. At the Cardtronics Accessibility Center of Excellence I work regularly with your veteran accessibility expert, Ron Gardner, to ensure that we are always mindful of the needs of blind users as we consider further advances through the hardware and software of our ATMs. I actually spoke to Ron yesterday morning, and he sent his regrets. I think only his church mission that he’s on right now could keep him from this event.
First and foremost I want to thank you and your NFB leaders for the help you guys have provided us. So often as sighted people we simply don’t comprehend what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Ron has very patiently worked with us to help us understand more about your challenges, and he’s personally taught me many things. For instance, it seemed natural to me that--I believed that because I understood the voice instructions on how to use the ATMs, and I knew that all our approved Braille stickers were on the machines, that blind users would be able to use the machines. Ron helped me recognize how important it is to appreciate that the human mind processes visual information differently from audio data. Audible data is received sequentially, and you process it sequentially. Recognizing this, Ron led us to adopt several conventions in developing our audio scripts for the ATMs. For instance, the new and upgraded ATMs will always give you the option to choose before giving you the action to take. So the new audio scripts will always say, “for cash press one” instead of “press one for cash.” This reflects the sequential approach our mind uses to receive and process that data. A sighted person can look at an ATM screen and instantly choose from multiple options on the screen. Our spoken scripts must present these multiple options sequentially in a crisp and easy-to-understand script. Very simply, a lot of the scripts that sighted people had developed for you were backwards and bloated with unnecessary words.
Another example--very simple things--we abandoned some words like increase and decrease because some speech engines simply couldn’t pronounce them where you could tell them apart. And something as simple as raise and lower solved the problem. In several cases manufacturers wrote the scripts in countries where English is not their native language [laughter in audience]—I think some of you have probably seen that. And they simply didn’t produce good American English. Another lesson was to be consistent. ATMs should deliver the same message, the same way, every time. In short, don’t get overly creative, and don’t waste words.
On the new Kalpana-style ATM we also recognized that for a blind user, the entire ATM screen should be a touchscreen that is responsive to the users. Otherwise you can have difficulty finding where the keypad is on the touchscreen and punching in your PIN. If you got a chance to try the Kalpana ATM at our booth, you also noticed that NCR has developed a new script across the bottom of the screen that enables a blind user to enter numeric data on a touchscreen efficiently and securely.
Second, I want to share what Cardtronics and our engineers and service personnel will be doing over the next couple of years to ensure that our ATMs will operate in the US, equipped with the hardware, software, Braille stickers, and all the other elements that will improve their accessibility for blind users. This is a monumental task. Beginning next month, we will start visiting all the sites where our 45,000-plus Cardtronics-owned ATMs, and an even larger number of merchant-owned ATMs that we operate are found, totaling almost 100,000 ATMs. Each of these engineering visits we estimate to require about three hours, which adds up to over 300,000 man hours, or the equivalent of 150 engineers working full-time for a year to move this software out to the field. [applause] Ron Gardner and I, as well as David Cohen, a specialist who was assigned to us by a federal judge and approved by both Cardtronics and the NFB, comprise the team that are now working on your behalf to ensure that all of our ATMs meet the agreed-upon accessibility standards, and I put it as simply: we’re just three old Eagle Scouts working together to improve ATM accessibility for all of you. And I guess what I would emphasize is that we really are old--we’ve been doing this a long time.
We generally meet for two or three days every few weeks, and we do the work that we need to do together. Between the meetings, we at Cardtronics work with manufacturers, programmers, and others to see that what we decided actually gets done. We will continue working to rewrite and improve scripts and to test and certify new ATMs as they come along at the Cardtronics Accessibility Center of Excellence. This is really the first time there has ever been in our industry such a widespread usability testing and certification process for ATMs. We have already seen other ATM owners copy our Braille stickers; we were glad that they did. We intend to share with manufacturers what we’ve done with our improved scripts, and, frankly, we expect that they will copy that work as well, and we’re happy that they do.
And my third and final point: many people would wonder why it’s taken us this long to get to this point. And I fully understand why that’s a logical question. In 2010 the new, revised ADA required ATM owners to provide voice guidance on their ATMs. Manufacturers had developed the hardware and software that make this possible. They provided ATMs that they said were ADA compliant. We as purchasers of the ATMs accepted these manufacturers’ assertions, and we purchased and deployed those ATMs. But, as you know, simply being ADA compliant doesn’t always mean easy-to-use. Cardtronics has long felt that our ATMs were as good as or probably better than anyone else’s. Through our discussions with the NFB we began to recognize that better than everyone else’s still might not be good enough. [applause] When you think about it, I think this is an understandable situation. When we buy a car, we know the vehicle must comply with pollution regulations; we accept the manufacturer’s claim that it does. When we buy ground meat, we don’t test it to guarantee that it’s safe. But actually, in both cases, we might frequently be surprised if we did test them. And that’s pretty much what it was with manufacturer-supplied voice guidance. The built-in voice guidance might be minimal or broken, but without actually inspecting it we didn’t know. In addition to the Center of Excellence certification process, we’re now implementing an industry-leading fleet inspection process that will result in tens of thousands of video-recorded, detailed inspections of our ATMs each year to verify and document that the ATM voice guidance is operational. In addition, all future repair visits—and there’s far more of those, machines are repaired generally two or three times a year—all future repair visits to our ATM will include verification that the headphone jack is intact and functioning properly. [cheers and applause] This is an even larger number of additional inspections that will not be videoed. We want all Cardtronics-associated ATMs to work properly all the time. Please report any ATM that does not work satisfactorily so that we can send an engineer to repair it. I’m also very proud to announce that we will be installing the first operational NFB-certified ATM in your national office in Baltimore in the coming month. This ATM will be programed to provide free ATM transactions for NFB employees and their guests [scattered cheers] Cardtronics cannot guarantee that your bank might not charge you a fee, but we won’t charge you a fee.Let me conclude by saying again that we are proud to be your partner and to underscore this partnership by asking that Dr. Maurer and President Riccobono join me here to receive a presentation from Cardtronics. Dr. Maurer, your Immediate Past President, has provided leadership and perseverance for over ten years to get the three of us together on this platform. President Riccobono, with whom I’m also proud to say that I attended the University of Wisconsin, is now providing the leadership for our partnership going forward. We at Cardtronics are pleased to work with the NFB, America’s leading advocacy group for the blind, and to support your efforts to improve the accessibility of ATMs for all blind Americans. On behalf of Cardtronics, as our contribution to your ongoing efforts, we are proud to present to you a big check—it’s four feet long—and for $1,250,000. [prolonged, enthusiastic cheers and applause] Thank you, Dr. Maurer, thank you President Riccobono, and thank you all for having us here this week.