Globally, now there are some 285 million blind and visually impaired people; every day they face difficulties - say, getting cash from a cash dispenser. If this is an ordinary ATM, they have to ask another person‘s assistance. And this is not only a matter of convenience, but also of trust.
"The blind, especially young people, are now actively using various mobile devices. So, to navigate in a big city they are assisted not only by traditional white sticks, but also by the newest information technologies. So, ATMs must also become common for the visually impaired, as the opportunity to dispose one‘s own funds is a necessary condition for their independence", says Ramune Balčikonienė, the deputy chairman of Lithuania‘s Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired, who herself recently tested a cash dispenser adapted for the blind people.
By connecting headphones to such an ATM, a blind client will hear a step-by-step instruction on how to use the device, "voiced" by the speech synthesizer for the Windows platform. In order to confirm (or cancel) a transaction, buttons with tactile signs Cancel, Clear and Enter are used. In addition, all inscriptions on the ATM are given not only in the given national language, but also in Braille.
This solution, which makes it possible for the blind and visually impaired to use the device, was developed by the BS/2 banking technologies company, which is part of the Penki kontinentai group. "Such a "talking ATM“ gives the blind more freedom and independence; they will not have to ask for help from somebody else. They‘ll be able to perform basic operations on their own: check the account balance, withdraw cash, change their PIN,"- says Daniel Fukson, BS/2 Business Development Department head.
According to Mr Fukson, BS/2 has gained useful experience during the implementation of a similar project in Georgia. However, it should be borne in mind that different software solutions are applied in different countries. And Mrs Balčikonienė also drew attention to the fact that the ATM software solutions differ in various banks sometimes – and the blind and visually impaired have to get used to different withdrawal processes. It‘s much more convenient if all ATMs have the same order, and the corresponding buttons are located in the same places and perform the same functions, she said.
"We hope that the banks in Lithuania will also begin to implement these technologies and consult with us not only about the ATM operating principles, but about their locations as well, for not all of them might be convenient for the blind" Mrs Balčikonienė says. She believes, such ATMs are extremely necessary at the railway and bus stations and pedestrian streets in downtown Vilnius. Furthermore, they should be located not only in metropolitan areas, but everywhere in Lithuania.
During the ATM presentation, the security issue has also appeared. According to the BS/2 representatives, the use of such ATMs is absolutely safe; besides, the ATMeye.iQ video surveillance system developed by that company that fixes the entire transaction and all the events happening around, can also be installed. The ATM screen can also darkened, or the device can be completely turned off – so that outsiders won‘t see how much the blind customer is withdrawing.
ATMs adapted to the needs of the blind will benefit not only the latter, but also seniors with poor eyesight who find it difficult to use a conventional device. Since their number in the world is growing, the specially adapted ATMs play a significant role for the entire society.