Banks Sued over ATM Use:   Advocates for the Blind

      Say Mellon and PNC Should Provide Voice-Operated Machines

	by Joseph A. Slobodzian


	From the Editor: The following article appeared in the June 

4, 1999, edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. In the May issue 

of the Braille Monitor we carried a story outlining the problems 

with today's automatic teller machines. The following article 

continues the story. Here it is:


	Advocates for the blind in Pennsylvania yesterday sued 

Mellon Bank and PNC Bank, contending that the banks must provide 

voice-equipped automatic teller machines to comply with federal 

disabilities law.
	The lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Courts in 

Philadelphia against Mellon, and in Pittsburgh against PNC, by 

the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania and 

individual Federation members who are customers of the banks.
	"The talking ATM technology is available, and we think the 

banks should provide them for their blind customers," said 

Theodore Young, owner of a Glenside computer company, president 

of the Pennsylvania Federation, and a blind customer of Mellon 

	Young said the two banks were targeted in the suit because 

both are large statewide banks likely to have significant numbers 

of blind customers. Although most banks now have ATM machines 

with Braille raised-dot coding along the keys for blind users, 

Young said only 15 percent of the blind are literate in Braille. 

Young said even those who are Braille-literate, as he is, are not 

helped when the bank changes the on-screen message or options on 

the ATM.
	"You wind up having to memorize the keys until the next 

changes," Young added. The lawsuit, filed under the Americans 

With Disabilities Act, asks the court to find the banks in 

violation of the federal law and order them to install talking 

ATM technology.
	Spokesmen for Mellon and PNC said yesterday that they were 

not permitted to comment on pending litigation. John Hall, a 

spokesman for the American Bankers Association, a Washington-

based industry group, said talking ATM technology is new and not 

in common use in U.S. banks. Hall said an association task force 

worked with disabilities groups at the time the federal law took 

effect in 1992 and approved accommodations for the blind such as 

Braille directions and bank-sponsored training for the blind on 

using ATM machines.
	Voice-equipped ATM's were discounted as an option at the 

time, Hall said, because of security concerns when the ATM voice 

announces personal financial information about the blind 

	Young, however, said current technology would let the ATM 

machines broadcast aural directions that could only be heard by 

someone wearing a special headset programmed to receive it. Young 

said such an accommodation was critical for the blind as more 

federal and state government agencies are using direct-deposit to 

place social program benefits in recipients' bank accounts.
	Thomas H. Earle, a lawyer with the Disabilities Law Project 

in Center City, who filed the suit for the blind federation, 

acknowledged that the talking bank technology was new but noted 

that Royal Bank of Canada had begun installing such machines in 

its banks.