Make Sure Your On-Site Kiosks Are Accessible

September 16, 2022

The global kiosk market is a $20 billion industry. While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the growth of on-site kiosks — primarily due to lower retail traffic — demand is still high. 

In fact, there’s a good chance that you’ve used a kiosk today. Whether you’ve purchased a few items from your supermarket’s self-checkout or took out money at an ATM, you’ve benefited from the technology. 

Unfortunately, for many people with disabilities, kiosks can present substantial accessibility barriers. That can create liabilities for businesses: All organizations must make reasonable efforts to make kiosks accessible under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other civil rights laws. That includes point of sale systems, as the Department of Justice noted in a 2014 statement of interest (PDF).

But even if compliance was a non-issue, inaccessible kiosks are bad business. When consumers have a poor experience with a brand, they’ll shop somewhere else — and in many cases, tell their friends and family to do the same.

Accessibility Tips for On-Site Kiosks

By considering digital accessibility from the first stages of product design, you can avoid costly litigation and retain more customers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Consider the full scope of disabilities

If you build an accessible website, your customers have options. They can use screen readers, screen magnifiers, and other assistive technologies (AT), or they can adjust the website’s appearance to meet their preferences. 

People usually don’t have the same options when accessing an on-site kiosk. Your device needs to accommodate a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Mobility limitations
  • Neurocognitive differences
  • Vision disabilities
  • Hearing disabilities
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech or language impairments

Creating a single device that accommodates all of those users isn’t a simple process. It’s much more difficult if you try to implement fixes after-the-fact.

In general, kiosk software should meet the Level AA requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the international standards for digital accessibility. Following the principles of WCAG may help developers avoid common barriers. Even so, some WCAG guidelines may not be applicable to kiosk content, and kiosks require additional considerations for compliance with the ADA and other laws. 

Because on-site kiosks use a wide range of technologies and input devices, there aren’t universal standards for physical kiosk design. However, in 2020, the city of Colorado Springs introduced its Kiosk Accessibility Standards, which are an excellent starting point for product developers.

Related: Digital Accessibility in the Physical World: 5 Use Cases

2. Make sure that physical accommodations are implemented correctly

Even if your kiosk has an adjustable mount or other accessibility features, it’s not necessarily ADA compliant. Physical accommodations need to be implemented in an accessible way in order to be useful.

Simply placing your kiosk in a wheelchair-accessible area isn’t enough. For instance, many people who use wheelchairs also have physical impairments; the kiosk’s controls must be within their vertical and horizontal reach to be truly accessible.

With that in mind, your kiosk should be tested during product design and after installation. Tests should include considerations for users of all abilities, not just people with a single type of disability.

Related: Accessible Kiosks: The What, Why, and How

3. Don’t use kiosks that rely on a single type of input

Touchscreens aren’t always bad for accessibility, but relying on a single type of user input is problematic. To meet ADA requirements, kiosks should also provide audio output and tactile input.

Those features need to be implemented in accessible ways:

  • Speech output must provide all information displayed on screen.
  • The device must have braille instructions for initiating speech output.
  • If the device performs transactions, the speech output should provide sufficient information for verifying transactions.
  • The user should be able to adjust the volume of the audio.

This isn’t a complete list of considerations. The takeaway: Your customers have a wide range of abilities, and your kiosks need to be usable for everyone.

4. Test kiosk software for digital accessibility

Like all electronic communications, kiosks should be tested against common standards for accessibility. To reduce the long-term costs of development, it’s important to start testing as soon as you’ve made the decision to use kiosks.

Your kiosk’s software should:

  • Structure content in a clear, predictable way.
  • Present text with appropriate contrast.
  • Limit the use of response-timed controls.
  • Provide detailed instructions for navigating menus.
  • Provide users with options for increasing font size, switching colors, and customizing the visual appearance in other ways.
  • Avoid requiring users to remember information except when essential.
  • Provide modes of access that accommodate individuals with different perception, mobility, and neurocognitive abilities.

Once again, this isn’t a comprehensive list of accessibility requirements. Kiosk testing requires a diligent approach, and we strongly recommend working with an accessibility partner for the best results.

By prioritizing inclusivity, you can improve compliance while providing every customer with a better experience. An accessible on-site kiosk can demonstrate your business’s commitment to its customers — and allow you to realize the cost-saving benefits of kiosks without leaving people out.

Read about the Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s application and kiosk accessibility testing services or send us a message to connect with an expert.

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