Talking ATM History: Early Structured Negotiations in New England and the Midwest

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This post is about the history of Talking ATMs. In the early 2000’s, blind people convinced banks to install Talking ATMs in Boston and Chicago. Talking ATMs let blind people get money from the machines by themselves. No lawsuit was filed. Instead, Structured Negotiations were used.

This post is one in an ongoing series on the history of the advocacy and technology behind Talking ATMs. Read more about the history of Talking ATMs in the Talking ATM category on the Topics Page of this website.


After early Talking ATM settlements in 1999 and 2000, ACB, its members, affiliates and other blind activists around the country continued to trust the Structured Negotiations strategy to advance Talking ATM technology and encourage Talking ATM installations. On this page you can read about

All of the results described here began with blind individuals demanding access to a type of technology that sighted persons take for granted. Insisting on the rights guaranteed them by the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws, blind advocates ensured that the blind and visually impaired public would not be left out of the unstoppable drive to automate banking services.

Bay State Council of the Blind, Disability Law Center, push New England Talking ATMs

In February, 2001, Fleet Bank and Massachusetts blind advocates announced the first Talking ATMs in New England. With a major press event at the Perkins School for the Blind, Fleet, the Bay State Council of the Blind and others announced that the bank would be installing more than 1,400 Talking ATMs throughout its banking network. Read the Fleet Bank Talking ATM press release. Two years later, Fleet issued a second press release announcing improvements to its Talking ATMs. Read the second Fleet press release. These releases were the results of two agreements BSCB and other negotiated using the Structured Negotiations process.

Using the Structured Negotiations process instead of litigation allowed Massachusetts advocates and Fleet Bank personnel to work together to develop the East Coast’s first Talking ATMs. Indeed, a Fleet manager actively engaged in the process credited BSCB officer Kim Charlson with fundamentally altering his idea of access and his definition of the “public” his bank was trying to serve. Charlson is currently the Director of the Braille and Talking Book Library at the Perkins School for the Blind, and an international advocate for the rights of blind people. When this banking official met her at a Fleet ATM during the negotiations and discovered first hand that she could not withdraw $20.00 because of the lack of access, he knew changes had to be made.

After its success with Fleet Bank, the Bay State Council of the Blind entered into Structured Negotiations with both Sovereign Bank and Citizens Bank. These institutions also signed comprehensive settlement agreements calling for Talking ATMs, Braille, Large Print and audio formats for financial information, and accessible websites. Read the 2002 Sovereign Bank Talking ATM Press Release. Read the 2004 Citizens Bank Talking ATM Press Release. The Disability Law Center in Boston, Massachusetts was co-counsel with the Law Office of Lainey Feingold in all the Boston cases.

Chicago Advocates Advance Talking ATMs

Blind Chicago activist Kelly Pierce was instrumental in first bringing Talking ATMs to the midwest, and increasing the number of Talking ATMs across the country. His important work in connection with pending federal accessibility regulations will be included in an upcoming post on how federal regulations influenced – and were influenced by – Talking ATM advocacy.

Kelly Pierce and his colleague Anna Byrne were the Claimants in the Structured Negotiations with Bank One, an institution later purchased by Chase Bank. Bank One was the first Bank to install Talking ATMs in Illinois and Ohio, and the first bank with Talking ATMs that used an outside company to process its ATM transactions. That company, then called Concord, and currently operating under the name First Data, operated a lab in Wilmington, Delaware where early testing of Bank One Talking ATMs was performed.

One advantage of Structured Negotiations over litigation is that it allows parties to have an on-going relationship, often resulting in increased accessibility. Using that alternative dispute resolution method, Bank one signed two different agreements with Chicago activists. The 2001 Agreement, negotiated by the Law Office of Lainey Feingold and co-counsel Linda Dardarian, required installation of 130 Talking ATMs. Read the first Bank One Press Release. Read the Preliminary Bank One Talking ATM Agreement.

Two years later, in 2003, the bank signed a second agreement, agreeing to install 1,500 Talking ATMs, make its website accessible, and provide alternative formats for print information. Read the Final Bank One Agreement.

Chase Bank continues Bank One’s accessibility initiatives

Today, in 2009, Chase Bank, Bank One’s successor, is a Talking ATM industry leader, with over 11,000 Talking ATMs. Even prior to its purchase of Bank One, Chase had developed its first Talking ATM, in 2002, with the assistance of the American Foundation for the Blind. Read about AFB’s early work with Chase in the November, 2003 issue of Access World.

And with Chase’s recent purchase of Washington Mutual, which had also engaged in Structured Negotiations on this issue, Chase will soon have thousands more Talking ATMs. The California and Florida affiliates of the American Council of the Blind spearheaded the Washington Mutual Structured Negotiations effort, with the Law Office of Lainey Feingold and co-counsel Linda Dardarian as their counsel. Read the 2002 Washington Mutual press release, announcing that WaMu was the first bank in the country to install Talking ATMs that spoke both English and Spanish.