Guest Author - Jeanetta Polenske
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issued accessibility guidelines for the banking industry in 2004. It was not until 2010 when the Department of Justice actually issued the regulations regarding automated teller machines (ATM) making compliance no longer voluntary. Not only banks, but also other public facilities providing ATMs are covered under the new law.
Essentially any public area, such as grocery stores, airports and shopping centers that offer an ATM on the premises is required is to make those machines accessible to the disabled. Among the modifications required are that they be barrier free to those in wheelchairs.
For wheelchair or walker accessibility, the highest operable area of the ATM must be no more than 48 inches. The lowest area must be at least 15 inches. If counters or other protrusions are part of the construction, the length of the protruding structure determines the accessible heights. The ground space in front of the ATM must be 30 inches wide by 48 inches deep. If the ATM is located in an indoor area, the space requirements are enlarged to allow for the ability to turn around.
The display screen is required to be visible at approximately 40 inches. The keyboard must be either in a 12-key ascending or descending format for easier use with all numbers and letters in sans serif font at least 4.8 mm in height. The font must stand out from the background. The law includes requirements that certain keys have distinct tactile features or are raised. All directions must include being written in Braille.
Of particular focus are the required communication components that are necessary for compliance. All ATMs need to be speech-enabled. In other words, the ATM must talk with either a recorded or synthetic voice. There must be the ability to have the verbal instructions repeated or paused. For privacy purposes, the customer must be able to access a handset or jacks for headphones must be provided in clearly marked outlets with the choice to have the screen blacked out during use.
A facility that provides more than one ATM on the premises is only required to have one machine in compliance with ADA. The exception is a location that has both interior and exterior ATMs. It is considered to have two separate machines and must bring both into compliance. If a financial institution maintains ATMs at many locations, all of those teller machines must meet the requirements. Leased ATMs are not excluded from the ADA law.
The final date to have the regulations in place was March 15, 2011. This has not been an easy task, nor are all ATMs in compliance. There are approximately 405,000 ATMs in the United States. Minor upgrades are expensive and the cost of new ATMs is staggering. It is an expense that has to be weighed against the profitability of having an ATM available for disabled consumers.
The cost of noncompliance could be greater than the expense although the court does evaluate the good faith effort to make the changes. In addition, there are credits available for smaller businesses to help with those expenses. Considering that 54 million Americans have disabilities, the potential gain in their ability to do business with accessible ATMs is a factor that cannot be ignored.