Access Board Considers ADAAG Coverage for Self-Service Kiosks

[quote from=”Comments to the U.S. Access Board”]We urge the Board to adopt language in the area of self-service kiosks that will ensure that people with disabilities have real access to the new built environment – the environment where one machine dispenses prescriptions, another boarding passes, and yet another allows a student to select college classes.[/quote]The United States Access Board is currently considering proposed changes to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) that would require self-service kiosks to be accessible to people with disabilities. Based on their experience with Talking ATMs and tactile point of sale devices, the Law Office of Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian prepared comments on the Board’s proposal for use by persons interested in accessible devices. Those comments, all or parts of which were incorporated into submissions filed by several organizations, are posted here.

Simplified Summary of this Document

Comments Regarding the Access Board’s proposed changes to ADAAG regarding Certain Self-Service Machines

These comments are submitted in response to the Board’s proposed amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines regarding certain self-service machines. The proposed amendments are contained in the Board’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Published in the Federal Register on March 22, 2010 [Docket No. 2010-1] RIN 3014-AA37.

I. Introduction

We applaud the Board for recognizing the need for accessibility regulations in the area of kiosks and other self-service machines as part of ADAAG. As stated in the Background to the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM):

With the proliferation of point of sale machines, kiosks, and other self-service machines, the Board has decided that in addition to updating the standards for electronic and information technology and the guidelines for telecommunications products, it should revise the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines to address access to this new technology to ensure its accessibility for people with disabilities.

We fully agree that there has been a proliferation of self-service systems installed in a host of public accommodations and state and local governments in the past five years. Far too many of the services, products, and information available through these devices are completely off-limits to people with disabilities because the machines themselves are inaccessible. Yet the technology for achieving accessibility on these self-service machines currently exists. That technology is not hypothetical or experimental, but well-demonstrated, deployed and tested.

The trend toward self-service automation in a host of applications is inescapable. Even a cursory web search shows a wide variety of kiosks already in use throughout all sectors of society, from travel to dispensing of prescription drugs. (A brief listing appears in part II of these comments.)

In retail, health care, education, food service, transportation, and core government services, self-service machines abound. Indeed, the fundamental way in which members of the public interact with both public accommodations and state and local government is slowly migrating away from personal interactions to self-service machines. When those devices are not accessible, the services, benefits, information and products they offer are unavailable to persons with disabilities.

The fundamental non-discrimination provisions of the ADA must be read to require that self-service devices be accessible so that people with disabilities are not prevented from receiving the services, information and products available to everyone else on or from the devices. For example, if a medical facility allows sighted members of the public to use a kiosk to check in for their appointments and receive relevant healthcare information independently, privately, quickly and without the need to wait in line, that same benefit must be made available to blind patients. If public accommodations are offering sighted shoppers the option of purchasing products or receiving discounts through a self-service kiosks, basic principles of non-discrimination instruct that the kiosk must also be accessible to blind shoppers to afford them the same right.

In fact, however, despite the ADA’s strong anti-discrimination mandate, today, in 2010, thousands of inaccessible devices are already installed in the built environment. Strong Access Board action now is critical to move the kiosk industry forward, to provide consistency and uniformity to public and private purchasers of self-service devices and to the public itself, and to protect the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities.

The draft regulation is movement in the right direction, but for the reasons stated in part III of these comments, the proposed language is insufficient to meet the challenge of guaranteeing people with disabilities full participation in an increasingly technological world.

II. Examples of Self-Service Machines

Each year, more and more services and products are offered by public accommodations and state and local governments through self-service kiosks. Almost always, except for Talking ATMs, federal government postal machines, some fare machines and isolated other devices, those kiosks are completely inaccessible to people who are blind or visually impaired, and often to people with other disabilities as well.

When self-service devices are inaccessible, people with disabilities are not simply preventing from accessing a machine, but rather are denied the products, services and information delivered to the public by the machine. In many situations, people with disabilities are often left with no choice but to seek the assistance of members of the public – strangers — in order to interact with the machines. In the absence of accessibility, and in addition to being denied products and services, people with disabilities are frequently forced to waive their legal rights to privacy and confidentiality, putting confidential financial, health, and other types of information at risk.

The following are examples of self-service kiosks currently available for public use and is not intended as an exhaustive list. In thinking about the proposed changes to ADAAG, the following types of kiosks, as well as others already in use or in development, must be kept in mind.

The particular devices listed here demonstrate an undeniable trend toward self-service. These systems may first appear as novel options, but we know from experience that those novel options quickly turn into business as usual. The ability to use self-service technology has become indispensable to full social participation.

Healthcare

The use of self-service systems in the field of public and private health care is growing at a rapid pace. This growth is fueled not only by cost-saving imperatives driving private industry, but also by federal government initiatives advancing the use of Health Information Technology. In the CMS Electronic Health Records (EHR) incentive program and various pro-IT provisions of the healthcare reform bill, the federal government has recognized that technology and health care are critical partners in a drive for confidential health information and more efficiently delivered health care at lower cost.

It is not just back-end systems where the marriage of health care and technology is visible. In May, 2010, Fujitsu announced it would be conducting a symposium entitled “Self-Service Healthcare: Migrate Over 50 percent of Patients to Kiosks” Read the Fujitsu announcement. According to the company, the session at a Canadian health conference “will focus on the benefits of self-service patient check-in kiosks, including improved service delivery, efficiency and overall patient satisfaction.” Read more information on the Fujitsu health care check-in kiosks can be found at

Fujitsu is not the only company to manufacture health care check-in kiosks. The Horizon Patient Kiosk by McKesson uses “touchscreen technology” to provide “an improved patient experience [and] decreased wait times.”

NCR offers the MediKiosk to make the check in and check out processes “more convenient for patients and to reduce costs and errors for the organization.” According to its White Paper entitled Putting the Patient in Control: Employing Technology Solutions to Empower Patients, NCR believes that self-service kiosks in a medical setting can do more than simply speed registration time; they can actually assist in providing health care:

self‐service kiosks provide an additional channel for insurers to support healthy practices and preventative care by recommending specific tests or procedures to patients with chronic disease management at the point of service. For example, at check‐in, patients with diabetes may receive a message from health insurers or health plans encouraging them to discuss the importance of testing for hemoglobin A1c with their physician. — NCR White Paper on technology solutions in healthcare

Another example of how health care has gone high tech – and self-service, is a product known as the “The InstyMed kiosk.” This self-service machine is a “fully automated prescription dispensing system” that is 100% touchscreen and 100% inaccessible. The Instymed website includes a 3 minute video of the self-service kiosk.

The company, whose motto is “we make patients better quicker,” describes its product as follows:

The safety and security of an ATM with the simplicity of a soda machine! InstyMeds is the solution for providing outpatient prescription medication services on-site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The InstyMeds Prescription Medication Dispenser is the health care industry’s first fully-automated, ATM-style dispenser of acute prescription medications. State-of-the-art InstyMeds technology ensures safe and secure medication dispensing directly to patients at the point-of-care.

This kiosk, and similar self-service devices sure to follow, will provide customers in drug stores, hospitals, and other locations with access to prescriptions 24 hours a day including times when a traditional pharmacy is closed. People with disabilities who cannot access the device will lack access not just to a machine, but to needed medication.

It is not just large institutions using these self-service check-in machines. In March of this year the Sebasticook Valley Hospital issued a press release announcing its use of self-service kiosks allowing patients to verify identity, provide insurance information and provide other functionality.

Education

Colleges and Universities across the country are using self-service touchscreen kiosks “for automated registration, financial aid information, course catalogs, directories, way finding, academic & athletic event calendars, student ID validation, and more.” Read about kiosks in education.

High Schools are also turning to self-service machines to provide information to, and gather information from students. Ector County Texas issued a press release in February, 2010 announcing its purchase of 25 devices to “disseminate and collect a wide range of educational content – including administrative announcements, interactive graphics, sign-ins, and informational video to students, teachers, and parents.” A requirement for the chosen kiosks was the “need to be able to stand alone – exposed and unattended.” If these devices are not accessible, students, teachers and parents with disabilities are simply excluded from important school services. Read the Ector County Texas kiosk press release.

Retail

Kiosks abound in the retail setting. A recent New York Times article, for example, focused on kiosks that print money-saving coupons on site at national retailers.

Kohl’s department stores recently announced a roll-out of self-service in-store kiosks across the chain that will provide free shipping on products ordered on-line in stores. Read the Kohl’s press release. This type of self-service devices increases the number of products available to their customers — but not if for customers with disabilities if the machines are not accessible.

ZoomSystems offers kiosks that function as full stores, taking payments and dispensing products without human staff. ZoomShops, for example, are

“automated, self-service stores that combine the convenience of online shopping with the immediacy of traditional retail. Powered by easy-to-use touchscreen technology, ZoomShops are part of a state-of-the-art network of automated retail stores that are found in over 1,000 airports, malls, and retail stores across the U.S. and internationally—and growing.”

Their touchscreen technology, however, is not “easy-to-use” by people who cannot see a touchscreen. It is, instead, completely inaccessible. (Read more information about ZoomShops)

Transportation

Airline kiosks, which allow passengers to check-in, get boarding passes, select seats and perform other functions quickly, privately and independently, have been proliferating since first introduced in the United States ten years ago. Read a 2000 article about the “new technology”. Unfortunately, despite clear non-discrimination mandates, these devices are largely inaccessible, even though industry itself has recognized the need for access. (Read IBM travel kiosks white paper titled “The Need for Accessible Self-Service Travel Kiosks.” Read information about IBM’s accessible self-service travel kiosks. These terminals that started out as a convenience on the side have rapidly become the main, and sometimes the only approach for checking in. The lack of accessibility on airline kiosks leaves visually impaired passengers at a significant disadvantage.

State and Local Government

Read about self-service devices used by state and local governments to provide services and information to the public.

It is critical that Board action on this important issue be flexible enough to cover all types of self-service machines. Given the realities of the regulatory process, the Board’s action now must ensure access not just the types of kiosks described here, but other units in the development stage and not yet generally available to the public.

III. Proposed Draft Language

The Board proposes the following addition to ADAAG:

220.2 Self-Service Machines. Where self-service machines, other than automatic teller machines and fare machines covered by 220.1, meet the definition of information and communication technology in 36 CFR Part 1194 and they are used for ticketing, check-in or check-out, seat selection, boarding passes, or ordering food in restaurants and cafeterias, at least one of each type provided at each location shall comply with the provisions in 36 CFR Part 1194, Chapters 3-9.

A. Strengths of the Proposed Draft Language

The proposed ADAAG change included in the ANPRM will successfully work to provide access to many self-service kiosks currently available to the public in places of public accommodation and state and local governments. Any changes as a result of the comment and drafting purpose must in no way result in a weakening of the language in the ANPRM.

Airline check-in kiosks, for example, provide an important service and benefit to the public, yet most airline kiosks in the United States are completely inaccessible to persons with visual impairments. This is particularly troubling because accessible kiosks are currently being manufactured and are available for purchase. The Board’s proposed language is an important and necessary step that will help rectify this inequality.

Similarly, as more industries – including healthcare –move to electronic check-in for a wide range of services, the Board’s proposed rule will provide an important mandate to ensure that those check-in kiosks are accessible to persons with disabilities.

The check-out provisions, as noted by the Board in its introduction, will apply to various devices, including the point of sale payment devices that have been the subject of Structured Negotiations, an alternative dispute process that has been used by the blind community and industry to collaborate on accessible technology and information issues. (http://www.lflegal.com/category/settlements/point-of-sale-settlements/ ) The reference to “check-out” is an important step forward in ensuring that people with disabilities are able to independently and confidentially purchase and pay for products, and receive related check-out information.

B. Problems with the Proposed Language and Suggested Changes

The Board’s draft language, despite many positive aspects, is not flexible enough to cover the host of self-service kiosks currently installed today, to say nothing of the self-service devices on the drawing board. The proposed language is too limited in several ways.

First, it offers coverage only to devices that “meet the definition of information and communication technology.” Whether or not the self-service kiosks providing products, services and information in a covered entity is ICT, it should be covered by the accessibility standards if it uses an ICT-based user interface. The person with a disability will need access to all such devices, many of which use the same underlying technology platforms.

Second, the Board’s draft language further limits this category of devices by spelling out particular types of self-service kiosks that are “information and communication technology” to which the accessibility standards of Section 508 will apply. Given the proliferation of devices in all sectors, the limitations in the Board’s draft do not make sense.

A further problem with the Board’s decision to limit coverage to certain identified devices is that the proposed language does not necessarily mandate full functionality of even those types of self-service devices specifically listed. For example, if a self-service kiosk in a medical setting that is used to check-in patients also delivers health care information, the proposed regulation may be erroneously read to allow that additional functionality to remain inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Similarly, in the grocery self-check situation, the Board’s draft language could be misread as not covering the entire process, but only applying to the final step of the process when the customer pays for the groceries.

The current language requires that a device be used for specific purposes before it can be covered by accessibility requirements. In an environment of rapid change, old terminology is frequently not applied to new devices that provide a slightly different combination of features. This, combined with a tendency to interpret regulations as only applying to exactly the items listed – can result in the proposed language not applying to as broad a group of products, including next generation products, where it should, or even to the products that replace the ones that are currently listed.

Particular applications should be listed as examples, rather than as a limited set of functions to be covered. This would ensure accessibility to the full range of self-service kiosks currently available to the public as well as those that will be introduced in the future. Examples, including but not limited to the ones in the current draft, should be listed in the form of an advisory as in other parts of the ANPRM. Moreover, the regulations should clearly specify that the examples are only that. The final language should specifically state that it is not the intent of the provision to be limited to the listed examples but to apply to self service public terminals in the different forms they take and will evolve into over time.

The Board must also carefully consider the accessibility standards being applied. To the extent that the proposed change to ADAAG will incorporate proposed new 508 standards, it is critical that those new standards provide the guidance and rules necessary to ensure the accessibility of this class of devices. Problems with the 508 standards referenced in the proposed ADAAG change are addressed in comments being filed by the disability community and others. Incorporating weak or inconsistent standards, especially around closed and public systems, will undermine the Board’s goal of ensuring ADAAG coverage of self-service systems.

Moreover, a general standard of “independent usability” for all self-service devices that provide products, services or information in covered entities, in addition to adoption of the specific accessibility standards, would also provide coverage more appropriate to today’s self-service market. (As the Board knows, the more general “independent usability” standard was the applicable Talking ATM provision until the Board adopted Section 707 in 2004, and is still the only Talking ATM regulation applicable under the ADA because the Department of Justice has not yet adopted Section 707.)

In drafting any regulation that applies to technology it is important to remember that the product development cycle and implementation time line are much quicker than the regulatory cycle. As industry makes business decisions to develop and employ technology to provide products, information and services to the public, it is imperative that accessibility be an integral component of what the public experiences.

As currently drafted, the proposed language, with its multi-layer limitations, is an important step forward, but simply does not go far enough. It certainly will not reach even every self-service kiosk currently in use in public settings. The Board has proposed regulatory language that simply cannot keep pace with the explosion of devices anticipated for tomorrow.

IV. Comments on Proposed Exceptions
A. Exception for Drive-Up Devices

Exception: The Board proposes that “Self-service machines which are located at drive-up only locations shall not be required to comply with section 702 in 36 CFR Part 1194.”

Comment: The proposed rule does not require that covered self-service machines located at drive-up locations to comply with section 704 of the 508 regulations (reach range), but otherwise makes no special exception for machines in drive-up locations. It is important that this exception not be expanded as comments are reviewed and considered. Drive-up locations are often the only location of a self-service device. Those devices may be used by people with disabilities who walk up to the machine, or by people with disabilities who are passengers in cars driven by others (or by themselves if the disability does not prevent driving). Aa person with a visual impairment, for example, may need to use a device in a drive-up location while riding in a taxi. That person must be able to independently use the self-service kiosk without having to disclose confidential information to the taxi driver and trust that the driver (whom they can’t identify) will not improperly use that information.

B. Exception for certain sections of the 508 regulations

Exception: The Board proposes: Exceptions: 1. Self-service machines shall not be required to comply with the following sections in 36 CFR Part 1194: 302; 409-412; 503.1-503.3; 506; 508; 703; 802.2.3; and 802.2.4.

In its’ explanation of this exception, the Board states that “[t]hese provisions generally address requirements for products to interoperate with assistive technology and therefore are not appropriate for self-service machines.”

Response: Section 302.1 of 36 CFR Part 1194 provides that “ICT that has closed functionality shall conform to 302.” This is not a provision that addresses interoperability. Indeed, the Board’s Advisory to Section 220.1 mentions “information kiosks” as an example of ICT with closed functionality. Information Kiosks fall squarely within the Board’s proposed language, and accessibility to such devices is critical. For this reason, the Board should not provide an exception for section 302.

Moreover, as other comments note, the “closed functionality” provisions of this ANPRM are problematic. In particular, considering self-service machines as potential “closed” systems will enable the Board to seek equivalent accessibility for other closed systems. Further, limiting the applicability of ADAAG changes to nonfunctional portions of Section 508 and 255 chapters further limits the accessibility of kiosks. The reasoning for not applying provisions of Chapters 2 and 10 to self-service machines is unclear. With limitations being placed on the applicability of 302 and Chapter 2 not applying to self-service machines, the regulation as drafted does not provide a sufficient level of accessibility to all the devices that need it.

V. Answers to Specific Board Questions

Question 30
The Board seeks comment from users and manufacturers of self-service machines on their experiences in using or designing accessible machines and the benefits and costs associated with the proposed requirements.

Answer:

The most wide-spread self-service machine that is accessible today is the Talking ATM. Although Talking ATMs are already covered in the 2004 ADAAG and not subject to the draft language currently under consideration, their wide-spread acceptance by the blind community provides an important answer to Question 30.

Talking ATMs afford blind customers the same independent access to their money that sighted customers have, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Users of Talking ATMs consistently praise the devices and emphasize the importance of being able to interact privately, independently and consistently with such devices. Comments from blind Talking ATM users collected in 2009 on the 10th anniversary of the first United States Talking ATM included the following:

“I also use talking ATM’s at a [bank] and a couple of [banks] in California. It’s really cool to not have to find someone to help make a transaction.”

* * *

“it felt truly empowering to use a talking ATM in my own neighborhood for the first time. The only time I’d ever used a talking ATM was at ACB national conventions. Now, I could independently use “my” talking ATM any time I chose to do so. People would sometimes ask me why I was plugging an earphone into the ATM machine and I would tell them about how we worked with the bank to make the ATMs accessible for blind persons. Now, I just take it for granted that I can use my local ATM independently.”

* * *

“I remember well the times that I went to [the Talking ATM] near my office and got my own cash out without having to ask for help. I was so excited that I could hear and follow the instructions.”

* * *

The need for similar independent, private access to other types of kiosks on the market today, particularly those in which financial and health care transactions are conducted and financial and health care information is provided cannot be overemphasized. Accessible self-service devices of all kinds need a place in ADAAG, as this type of accessibility fits squarely within the purpose of the ADA.

Another type of accessible self-service device is the Automated Postal Centers (APC) installed in virtually all United States Post Offices. These devices, using the EZ Access interface developed by the Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Wisconsin, provide spoken instruction for all functionality on the APCs. The presence of these devices across the country demonstrate the ability to make self-service kiosks accessible. They allow people with disabilities access to vital postal services and products whenever post office lobbies are open – which is frequently during times when post office staff is unavailable.

Altogether, Talking ATMs and the accessible post office kiosks have resulted in tens of thousands of accessible self-service machines currently installed across the country that provide meaningful, independent, confidential and equal access to persons with disabilities. This should be the norm. Access Board regulation on this issue will provide the spur to make independent access a reality for people with disabilities.

Question 33: The Board is interested in comment on the impact on small entities (places of public accommodations and state and local government entities) of the provisions for self-service machines under the Americans with Disabilities Act. How many and what types of small entities utilize self-service machines, and what types of machines do they use? How many small manufacturers make these types of machines? How many of the small entities that use or manufacture self-service machines have machines that are accessible? How much will it cost to develop and produce the technology that would meet the proposed provisions? Should the Board establish different compliance requirements for small entities to have accessible machines? Does the Board need to clarify or simplify the requirements for small entities or exempt certain types of machines from these requirements?

Answer: Because the Americans with Disabilities Act already provides appropriate defenses for public accommodations and state and local governments, the Board should not establish different compliance requirements for small entities, should not simplify requirements for such entities and should not exempt certain types of machines from accessibility requirements because of their placement in “small entities.” Uniformity and consistency are important components of accessibility, and independent access to the products and services offered on or from self-service kiosks is necessary regardless of where those machines are placed.

An important piece of Talking ATM history provides useful information to the Board in connection with Question 33. In October 2004, the manufacturer of the lowest cost ATMs available in the United States issued a press release stating that “beginning this week, the Triton 9100 Monochrome ATM is equipped with audio-guided transaction support. Now all Triton models for the U.S. market include audio capability as a standard feature at no additional cost.” The full press release is available as part of 2005 comments submitted by the American Foundation for the Blind in response to Question 7 of the Board’s ANPRM regarding certain types of free standing equipment, on line at http://bit.ly/cgSUWo.

In the traditional built environment, the Board would not adopt one standard that applied to buildings selling shoes, and a different standard – or no standard — to a building selling coats. Twenty years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the importance of, and need for, robust, uniform, and consistent accessibility standards for people with disabilities in that traditional built environment goes without saying.

We urge the Board to adopt language in the area of self-service kiosks that will ensure that people with disabilities have real access to the new built environment – the environment where one machine dispenses prescriptions, another boarding passes, and yet another allows a student to select college classes. The Board needs to take firm action today so that robust, uniform and consistent access to those machines is guaranteed.

Simplified Summary

This post talks about different kinds of self-service kiosks. Kiosks are machines that provide information or products or services. The comments say that people with disabilities should be able to use the kiosks. The U.S. government has issued a draft rule requiring accessibility of some kiosks. Back to beginning of comments.