While pulling out some of your hard-earned money from your bank’s local ATM, you may have pondered this question. “Why do they put braille on drive up ATMs?” The thought is probably a fleeting one because once the machine dispenses your money, you quickly start thinking on the ways you will spend it. Not us, however. We don’t have any money. So instead, we’ll explore this little life mystery.
The Short Answer
The short, simple answer is because they have to. Drive up ATM buttons contain braille because U.S. regulations require it. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities says, “Instructions and all information for use of an automated teller machine shall be made accessible to and independently usable by persons with vision impairments.” Drive up ATMs, unlike the walk up variety, don’t need to be wheelchair accessible, but the law makes no exception regarding accessibility by the blind.
Contrary to what many people think, blind people actually do use the drive up ATMs. It’s not uncommon at all for them to run errands in a taxi-cab, for instance. A drive up ATM is certainly more convenient for a blind person, given someone can drive them right up to the ATM, and they probably wouldn’t want to trust the cab driver with their card and pin number.
A Better Question
A better question might be, “Sure, they can read the buttons, but how do they know what’s being said on the screen?” Well, without assistance on some older machines, they can’t yet. On other newer machines, there is audio support courtesy of a head phone jack (to protect privacy) that will read audio instructions and relay information to the user.
Customers using machines located at Swedbank or Nordea bank (both are located primarily in Northern Europe) can opt to be treated with instructions read over an external speaker that is activated by pressing a button.
Bonus fact: The most unusual place for an ATM? Interestingly enough, it’s probably Antarctica. Yes, there are indeed ATMs in Antarctica. An ATM was installed there back in 2000 at the McMurdo Station which is just 840 miles from the south pole. A few of the workers were trained to perform minor repairs, but a vendor is sent down once every two years to service it and deliver spare parts or upgrade software. There are actually 2 ATMs in Antarctica. One is always left turned off, but can be turned on in the event the primary ATM breaks down.