Several new U.S. Department of Transportation regulations are set to take effect in 2016. In compliance with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, one new requirement stipulates that airports must have audio-equipped technology installed in at least 25 percent of airport kiosks. The new rule additionally complies with the Air Carrier Access Act enacted by Congress in 1986, which prohibits air carriers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.
As a result of the latest regulations, a number of manufactures in the keypad, payment terminal, ATM and kiosk space have stepped up to develop solutions that not only support the new audio requirements at airports, but have the potential to have much broader application in interactive self-serve environments outside of airports.
One such company is United Kingdom-based Storm Interface, which has endeavored to build a series of data-entry devices geared for people with disabilities. Before launching its EZ-Access keypad, the company partnered with the Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Wisconsin along with the U.K.’s Royal National Institute of Blind People to better understand how keypad technology could be enhanced and adapted to improve accessibility.
In the end, the EZ-Access product solved several problems by combining technologies. It was able to incorporate audio, bright LED illumination and highly tactile surface features into its keypad, which has since been integrated into a number of ATMs and kiosks. Storm and its longtime partner, NCR Corp., have also collaborated to develop next-generation, intuitive audio-navigation solutions for travel and other self-checkout applications.
Through its collaboration with NCR, Storm recently released the Audio-Nav keypad to the global marketplace. According to Storm, sight impaired travelers are now able to access information and services via Audio-Nav equipped kiosks and ticketing machines connected by a personal headset. Storm's host system apparently can detect the connection of a headset as a signal to begin an audible summary of information and services, which are presented on a kiosk display screen or touch screen.
The specially designed Audio-Nav keypad has been equipped with ADA-compliant, text-to-speech technology integrated into it. Using the keypad, individuals with vision impairments can navigate audible menus and make touch-button selections on the highly tactile keypad, the company said.
Storm reported that its Audio-Nav and EZ-Access keypads are currently being deployed in ATMs as well as kiosks in major U.S. airports where global entry kiosks are strategically located for use by international passengers.
Another point the companies noted is that neither Storm nor NCR is new to ADA-compliant equipment and devices. NCR developed an entire line of ATMs, both contact and contactless, that adhere to strict government regulatory guidelines. They do not view this latest regulatory action as a hurdle but rather as another important step forward.
Most experts agree that the strategic advantages of investing in new technologies required by law will continue to benefit providers and users as companies strive to reach customers in meaningfully connected ways.
"It is not just a matter of compliance; it's also good business," said Gregg Vanderheiden, Director at Trace Research Center. "When used with EZ Access software, the keypad facilitates access for elders and anyone else who has trouble seeing, reading or using the touchscreen directly."
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