Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), new standards pertaining to accessibility to automated teller machines (ATMs) for the visually impaired were issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the ADA Access Board in 2010. These standards took effect on March 15, 2011, and all ATMs were required to be upgraded to meet these new requirements by March 15, 2012. The Department of Justice has stated that it considers the ATMs' communication-related functions to be auxiliary aids to which safe harbor does not apply. Thus, compliance with the standards is mandatory. As of March 15, 2012, civil lawsuits were permitted to be filed based upon their violation.

Within the last 30 days, at least 10 class action lawsuits have been filed in Pennsylvania on behalf of visually impaired plaintiffs, for alleged violation of these standards. As a result, banks may benefit from this reminder regarding the new standards, and we have listed the salient ones below.

Among the new standards are the following requirements:

Speech Output

Machines shall be speech enabled. Operating instructions and orientation, visible transaction prompts, user input verification, error messages and all displayed information for full use shall be accessible to and independently usable by individuals with vision impairments. Speech shall be delivered through a mechanism that is readily available to all users, including but not limited to, an industry standard connector or a telephone handset. Speech shall be recorded or digitized human, or synthesized. 2010 ADA – 707.5

Input Controls

At least one tactilely discernible input control shall be provided for each function. Where provided, key surfaces not on active areas of display screens shall be raised above surrounding surfaces. Where membrane keys are the only method of input, each shall be tactilely discernable from surrounding surfaces and adjacent keys. 2010 ADA – 707.6.1

Numeric Keypads

Numeric keys shall be arranged in a 12-key ascending or descending telephone keypad layout. The number five key shall be tactilely distinct from the other keys. 2010 ADA – 707.6.2

Display Screen

The display screen shall be visible from a point located 40 inches (1015 mm) above the center of the clear floor space in front of the machine. Characters displayed on the screen shall be in a sans serif font. Characters shall be 3/16 inch (4.8 mm) high minimum based on the uppercase letter "I." Characters shall contrast with their background with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background. 2010 ADA – 707.7.1, 707.7.2

Braille Instructions

Braille instructions for initiating the speech mode shall be provided.