Self-service kiosks are closed systems typically comprised of a physical enclosure and an interactive software solution, combined in a system that is locked down to provide a controlled and prescribed user experience.
Because the system is closed, users with disabilities cannot add their own assistive technologies to allow them to complete the intended tasks. Therefore, assistive technologies should be included on kiosks in ensure usability for people with disabilities.
Kiosks should be built to service the largest group of individuals possible, allowing all users to conduct tasks independently and without assistance from an attendant or staff member.
ADA and Kiosks
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that public accommodation be accessible to people with disabilities. While the ADA provides standards for accessible design, these specific standards largely focus on the built environment, with attention to the height, depth, and reach specifications needed to access a kiosk from a wheelchair. ADA hardware standards are prescriptive and extend to the way kiosks are placed in a location and how someone who uses a wheelchair or a cane might approach the kiosks.
While the standards for the physical environment of kiosks are clear, the standards for functional usage are less prescriptive. The gap between prescriptive kiosk accessibility standards and functional expectations has been filled by court settlements, decisions, and the Department of Justice’s clarifications.
Court cases and settlements have provided some specific requirements for ways to make a kiosk accessible and usable for people with disabilities. In one prominent example, Redbox and Save Mart kiosks settled a case on kiosk accessibility and agreed to develop and install nonvisual user interfaces including headphones jacks, tactile keypads, and text to speech output. Other examples abound, but the results were similar and result in kiosks that are accessible when used by people with disabilities.
Standards that Govern or Regulate Kiosk Accessibility
When deploying an accessible kiosk, it is important to consider the following standards and regulations:
- ADA Height/Reach specifications as outlined here.
- Kiosk deployments for the federal government are required to follow Section 508 rules
- Kiosks deployed in airports or by air carriers are required to comply with ACAA standards
- Canadian standards include the Accessible Canada Act, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the National Standard of Canada, Accessible design for self-service interactive devices.
- European standards such as EN 301 549 and other international standards may also apply, depending on the region/country of your deployment.
- WCAG 2.1 (international guidelines for accessible software/application development).
Additionally, it is important to consider usability and accessibility more broadly, particularly in the US where the standards are less explicit in the regulation, but more defined from a performative standpoint. Specifically, court settlements over the past 15 years have established that a tactile input device, headphone jack, and screen reader are required on a closed system to allow users who are blind or have low vision to independently operate the kiosk.
Best Practices for Building an Accessible Kiosk
- Begin with the hardware — Make sure that you are working with a hardware provider that understands the requirements for the built environment and specific requirements for height/reach dimensions as they relate to an accessible kiosk enclosure.
- Include a headphone jack to accommodate screen reading or other audible output.
- Hardware decisions will need to be made based on the specific requirements of the kiosk application. What data input or form fills will be required? Selecting the correct input device (number pad, physical QWERTY keyboard, Storm AudioNav™, etc.) will have a significant impact on the accessibility of the kiosk.
- Your kiosk application will need to be designed with accessibility in mind. Guidelines for building an accessible application are established for digital content and can be found at W3C.org. The guidelines include instructions for contrast and font sizes that are accessible for people with low vision. Any video content needs to have captions. `The kiosk application must be built with the proper developer techniques to be accessible to a screen reader.
- Assistive Technology Software such as the JAWS for kiosk screen reader (for Windows or Android) should be installed on the kiosk to provide audible output for kiosk users.
When deploying a kiosk, you will want to consider the kiosk placement as well as the kiosk itself. Built environment factors such as approach, placement, and glare can impact the accessibility of a kiosk. Can someone in a wheelchair, for instance, safely access the kiosk, reach the kiosk controls, and see the screen? Is the kiosk placement such that you can hear the audio output of the kiosk or is there excessive noise, limiting the ability to hear?
Building a kiosk that is usable and accessible for users with disabilities can seem like a steep mountain to climb. KIOSK Information Systems has invested in understanding kiosk accessibility and has partnered with accessibility service providers such as TPGi and JAWS for Kiosk to provide the expertise needed to improve the kiosk experience for all users, including those with disabilities.
TPG Interactive (TPGi) is a digital accessibility consulting firm offering kiosk accessibility consulting and solutions. TPGi boasts a dedicated team focused on making kiosks accessible. Services include: hardware accessibility reviews, kiosk application accessibility reviews and integration of kiosk accessibility hardware and software. The JAWS for Kiosk screen reader, sold by TPGi, provides a best-in-class enterprise solution for kiosks running the Windows or Android operating systems.