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US Access Board Considers New Accessibility Rules for Self-Service Kiosks

Dec 9, 2022

The United States Access Board, a federal government agency, is considering new accessibility standards for touchscreen kiosks and other self-service transaction machines (SSTMs).

On September 21, 2022, the Access Board issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on “supplemental accessibility guidelines for different types of SSTMs, including electronic self-service kiosks, for persons with disabilities.” 

The proposed rule would bring the rules for on-site kiosks in line with the technical requirements for automated teller machines (ATMs) and fare machines — both of which must meet strict accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). 

Members of the public may submit comments for the APRM by November 21, 2022 via the methods listed on the Access Board’s website.

New regulations for on-site kiosks may clear up confusion about technical requirements

Globally, the kiosk market is a $20 billion industry — and kiosks have quickly become indispensable for some businesses. If you’ve placed an order on a touchscreen at a brick-and-mortar business, you’ve used an SSTM.

Private businesses must comply with relevant regulations when installing kiosks, which means following Title III of the ADA. If a kiosk isn’t reasonably accessible for people with disabilities — including people with vision disabilities, hearing disabilities, or any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity — it violates the law.

But while the ADA applies to on-site kiosks, it doesn’t include strict technical standards for those devices. That lack of clarity doesn’t protect private organizations from ADA enforcement: Major brands like Applebees have faced legal action over alleged accessibility barriers within their ordering and payment kiosks.

The Access Board hopes that defined technical standards will compel private organizations to accommodate a wider range of customers.

“The ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards require ATMs and fare vending machines be accessible to people who have mobility disabilities, limited dexterity, or are of short stature by addressing clear floor space, reach range, operable parts, privacy, speech output, braille, and display screens,” the Access Board writes. “The Board is also considering incorporating certain requirements in the Revised 508 Standards for ‘closed’ hardware into a proposed rule.”

Related: Make Sure Your On-Site Kiosks Are Accessible

Don’t wait for new regulations to prioritize kiosk accessibility

Once the US Access Board finalizes its technical standards, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will need to approve them through its own rulemaking process. That could take some time — and the DOJ is likely to change the Access Board’s standards before any new regulation is introduced as law.

Quite frankly, we probably won’t get new standards for some time. But since the Access Board’s proposal is based on the current rules for ATMs, we know what the “new" rules will look like:

  • Kiosks will need appropriate physical accommodations, which should be considered when placing and installing the devices.

  • Kiosks should not rely on a single type of user input (such as a visual touchscreen that doesn’t support audio output). 

  • Kiosk software will need to meet Revised Section 508 standards, which incorporate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 by reference.

  • All users must be presented with an equivalent experience. For example, a kiosk’s speech output must provide all of the information displayed on the screen.

This isn’t a comprehensive guide to kiosk accessibility. SSTMs must meet dozens of defined technical criteria to comply with current interpretations of the ADA and ABA. While the Access Board may finally codify those rules, the new standards probably won’t be fundamentally different from the current requirements.

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

Accessible digital kiosks create opportunities for businesses

Under the ADA, every organization has a responsibility to provide individuals who have disabilities with an equivalent experience. That responsibility extends to on-site kiosks, including all payment terminals, self-checkout scanners, and other self-service devices. 

And while accessibility is legally required, it’s also good for business: 26% of U.S. adults live with some form of disability. Brands that ignore these people miss a major opportunity — and by prioritizing accessibility as early as possible, businesses can avoid common mistakes while presenting customers with a better experience.

For more guidance, 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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