Revised ADA Regulations (Finally) Include Detailed Talking ATM Requirements

Department of Justice logo (an eagle holding a red white and blue shield

[A follow-up post to this one was published on LFLegal on March 7, 2012. Read the 2012 post now.] On September 15, 2010, the United States Department of Justice published its revised rules implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act. Official publication is one of the last steps on a very long road leading to new ADA regulations for both public and private entities on a diverse set of issues including Talking ATMs, ticketing for accessible seating, effective communication, service animals and more. The new Talking ATM standards are in Sections 220 and 707 of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

The next steps? The new rules take effect on March 15, 2011 – six months after publication in the federal register. Compliance with the new 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (revising what is often erroneously referred to as ADAAG), is required as of March, 2012. Note: the September 15, 2010 Federal Register publication is not related to, and does not affect, the four pending Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRMs) that the DOJ issued on July 26 about web accessibility and other issues. Read about the DOJ ANPRMs.

In this post you can find

Resources about the Revised Department of Justice ADA Regulations

Talking ATMs: Regulations Finally Catch Up to Industry Leaders

When I first began working on the issue of Talking ATMs, in 1995, there was a whisper that federal regulations on the subject might soon be pending. At that time, Justice Department regulations required that ATMs be “accessible to and independently usable by” people with visual impairments. To fulfill that obligation, some banks had installed braille instructions on the face of their ATMs. Of course, with the dynamic nature of ATM screens, static braille labels did not allow blind customers to independently use the ATM.

Despite the lack of specificity in the “independently usable” requirement, the first Talking ATM in the United States was installed in October, 1999. Since that time, well over 100,000 Talking ATMs have been installed by banks across the country.

The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design now includes detailed requirements for audio output, tactile input controls, and other features to make ATMs truly accessible to bind customers — features currently available on Talking ATMs that dot the U.S. landscape. The Department of Justice Title III Highlights documents contains the following reference to the new ATM requirements:

220 and 707 Automatic Teller Machines and Fare Machines

Section 707 of the 2010 Standards adds specific technical requirements for speech output, privacy, tactilely-discernible input controls, display screens, and Braille instructions to the general accessibility requirements set out in the 1991 Standards. Machines shall be speech enabled and exceptions are provided that cover when audible tones are permitted, when advertisements or similar information are provided, and where speech synthesis cannot be supported. The 1991 Standards require these machines to be accessible to and independently usable by persons with visual impairments, but do not contain any technical specifications. — U.S. Department of Justice Analysis of New Regulations

The details of ATM accessibility may be new to the DOJ regulations. Fortunately they are not new to ATM manufactures and financial institutions across the United States.