Published July 23, 2020
When it comes to convenience, it’s hard to beat interactive kiosks and self-service terminals like self-checkouts. That’s why so many retailers have them in-store: they make it speedy to place orders, get information, scan items and pay for pretty much any kind of product, while keeping customers in control of the experience. And the global kiosk market is set to reach a 13 percent compound annual growth rate from 2020 through 2025.
In fact, a kiosk solution offers several advantages for customers and retailers alike:
But what if you have a disability? If you have sight, hearing or mobility limitations, the advantages of self-service terminals (SSTs) such as self-checkouts and interactive kiosks can become a drawback if customers with disabilities can’t enjoy the same access as others.
To ensure accessibility for customers with disabilities, in 1990 the U.S. Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including public accommodations.
Basically, ADA compliance for kiosks means a business that incorporates them into its operations needs to ensure all customers can use them, regardless of any physical challenges they might have. Europe’s standards, which include accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT), apply to the public sector and can serve as guidelines for the private sector.
"The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that about 19 percent of the country’s population, or about 57 million people, have some form of disability."
For any retailer running a successful business, protecting against financial loss is important. There's a financial penalty for businesses that fail to achieve ADA compliance for operating kiosks. The maximum civil penalty for a first violation of ADA regulations is $75,000 and $150,000 for subsequent violations.
Potentially catastrophic class-action lawsuits are of bigger concern, particularly for large retailers. In recent years, manufacturers and operators of kiosks have been the primary targets in a surge of high-profile class-action lawsuits alleging non-ADA compliance.
For example, in 2012, Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, et al sued Redbox Automated Retail LLC for operating more than 3,000 video-rental kiosks in California with touchscreen controls lacking tactile features, preventing use by blind people. The plaintiff was awarded a $1.2 million settlement.
The awarding of significant damages in class-action lawsuits for kiosks that are not ADA compliant, such as in Lighthouse v. Redbox, increases legal exposure for retailers who provide kiosks for customers, making accessibility a priority. But an even bigger consideration is the sheer size of the potential market segment of customers with a disability.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that about 19 percent of the country’s population, or about 57 million people, have some form of disability. They include:
Making kiosks accessible for this sizeable customer segment isn’t just the right thing to do; it also makes good business sense.
Also, aside from missing out on revenue from these customers themselves, failing to give them sufficient kiosk accessibility can create the perception that your business is insensitive to disabled customers’ needs. A California-based A.I. company recently introduced a voice assistant that can be added to kiosks, so your customers can now access your ATM using just their voice.
Still, challenges exist in providing interactive kiosk accessibility to customers with disabilities to boost customer satisfaction. For one thing, it’s not clear how many accessible kiosks to provide. Also, retailers might have doubts about what constitutes an acceptable level of access or how to design the appropriate touch screen interface, for example.
It helps to understand some of the most common kiosk accessibility challenges for customers with disabilities when planning ways to accommodate them:
It would be unrealistic to expect highly prescriptive kiosk design specifications for retailers or the kiosk industry to follow. Here are some general concepts to keep in mind when making capital investments in new kiosks or testing existing units for ADA compliance.
"The advantages of kiosks can turn into drawbacks for both the retailer and customers if customers with sight, hearing or mobility limitations can’t enjoy the same access as others."
The first step in achieving kiosk accessibility is ensuring that customers with disabilities can get close enough to kiosks to use them. If the approach to the kiosk is too narrow to allow for access, other accessibility features will not be of any use.
"In recent years, manufacturers and operators of kiosks have been the primary targets in a surge of high-profile class-action lawsuits alleging non-ADA compliance."
"Making kiosks accessible for this sizeable customer segment isn’t just the right thing to do. It also makes good business sense."
According to KMA, permanently plugged-in headphones, which present a vandalism risk and are hard to keep sanitary, are not an ADA requirement for kiosks. But you can accommodate hearing-impaired customers by providing a headphone jack on the kiosk and allowing users to change the volume or offering visual cues or messages and with audio tones and messages.
Catering to consumers of all segments is key to making them feel welcome and building loyalty. And, aside from providing a positive experience for everyone, making sure your self-checkouts and interactive kiosks are ADA compliant also makes good business sense, ensuring a return on investment while giving all kinds of customers every reason to return.