I came across an ATM machine today. The machine, like most ATM machines in my city, had braille on its buttons. Each button was marked with a number from 1 to I don’t know how many; in fact, for some reason whoever put the braille on the ATM had been very careful to include the wholly unecessary number sign (does it matter after all whether the buttons are called 1, 2, 3 or a, b, c?). You may think I was thrilled, but to tell you the truth, I was not. The people who put up these braille marks on the machine, obviously didn’t speak to a representative of the blind, since if they did, they’d have known that these numbers don’t make sense even to some persons who read braille, and that 90% of blind people don’t read braille anyway. That figure is a problem of course, and I am all for braille literacy, but those people will not suddenly learn braille just because the banks don’t care to accommodate them.
I still can’t use an ATM machine fully independently. It’s not that I was never taught, but just after I memorized the sequence of buttons I had to press to get a certain amount of money on my own bank’s ATM, the configuration was changed. I think it has been the same for a few years now, so I could make an effort to memorize the new sequence (except that I now use the preset amount of money buttons and I was taught to always click the “Other amount” button and then type the amount of money I wanted); of course, the configutation will be changed again as soon as I do, but oh well. In fact, I think I have it pretty much memorized now. Still, I keep asking someone (usually my boyfriend, since I can’t locate the ATM machine independently anyway) to read the screen in case there is a (minor) bug, such as them not being able to print a note (which I don’t want anyway), which will mess up the sequence of buttons I’ll have to push. Besides, what if I accidentally request the wrong amount of money and don’t notice; if it is too little, that is not a big deal cause I could operate the machine again (provided it’s my own bank’s ATM), but what if it’s too much? If I try to access more money than is in my bank account, the ATM will give an error I can’t read, and if I request a large amount that happens to be in my bank account, the ATM machine will prompty provide it.
Then, of course, all banks are free to operate whatever configuration they want on their ATM machines, so if I memorized my own bank’s configuration, I could only take money out of my own bank’s ATM machines. Of course, forget about getting moeny out of a German ATM in case I’m in my boyfriend’s city.
The problrem is easy to solve: provide talking ATMs. That way, the problem of the 90% illiterate blind people who are absolutely not helped by braille on ATMs, will be solved. So will the problem of having to memorize which sequence of buttons to push, since I may have the memory capacity to do so, but many blind people do not. There will still be accessibility issues, of course, for example, for people who are deafblind. I cannot think at this point how these people could be accommodated, but I think it best that one get in touch with a representative of the deafblind for guidance on that. In any case, I am pretty sure that if whoever is in charge of ATM machines (my bank, I guess) had talked to a representative of the Dutch Association of the Blidn and Partially Sighted (NVBS), they’d have informed them about the need for talking ATMs; and maybe they’d have told them that, of course, braille marking doesn’t hurt, but it isn’t the fabulous way to accommodate the blind. Maybe if I really wanted to use an ATM machine independently, I could work myself around the accessibility issues, but as I said many blind people cannot. Are we supposed to rely on someone else (presuming we have a relative we trust) to help us access our own money for the sake of whatever keeps my bank from installing talking ATMs? Cause it isn’t that they don’t exist, or not in the Netherlands, or that it is difficult to install them. I was really inclined to believe that my bank was aiming to show that they were “doing something for the poor, blind people” to the majority of people, who don’t know that they are only helping at most 10% of those blind people.