Why do drive-through ATMs have Braille keypads?

Not that we have any drive-through ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) that I know of here in Sweden, but apparently they are common in the US. These ATMs, like most others, tend to have Braille keypads, which understandably puzzles some people. If you need Braille to read the numbers on an ATM, you’re hardly allowed to drive a car, right?

One reason for drive-through ATMs having Braille keypads is that it doesn’t make sense for manufacturers to put different keypads on machines depending on where they will be used. It’s easier (and probably cheaper) to put Braille keypads on all of them. But even if that wasn’t the case, it still wouldn’t be pointless to have Braille keypads on drive-through ATMs.

John Foliot explains why in Thinking through Accessibility:

The answer of course is surprisingly simple—the blind user can sit behind the driver in the car and thus do their banking independently, without having to exit the car, go to the bank-counter and have the clerk assist them with their financial needs. Just as for sighted users, it is quick, easy and time-saving.

The same reasoning can be used to (try to) explain to people who think of the Web as a purely visual medium why we as designers and developers should do our best to make sure the sites and applications we build can be used by people who for instance cannot see or cannot use a mouse.

Just as for people who do not have a disability, being able to find information and use applications on the Web is—most of the time—quick, easy, and time-saving compared to physically visiting a bank office for a simple transaction, having someone read today’s newspaper for you, or placing a phone call (and waiting for someone to answer) to find out when the next train leaves.

Posted on January 12, 2011 in Accessibility