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EU invests €3.41m in project to make self-service terminals more accessible

The APSIS4All project plans to use cutting edge technologies including NFC to make it easier for the elderly and the disabled to make use of ticket vending machines, public information kiosks, cash dispensers and other self-service terminals.

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EU: One in six Europeans have a disability and there are 87 million senior citizens

The European Union has agreed to provide €3.41m (US$4.7m) in funding for a project which will use cutting edge technologies, including NFC, to make a wide range of self-service terminals more accessible to the elderly and to citizens with disabilities.

One in six Europeans have a disability and there are 87 million Europeans aged 65 and over. But an EU study has found that only 38% of the bank cash dispensers across the EU provide voice capabilities to customers with disabilities, far behind the US (61%) and Canada, where nearly all ATMs do.

The APSIS4All project will be looking at terminals including public transport ticket vending machines, public information kiosks and cash dispensers. The goal is to develop a standardised framework that could foster further take up of e-accessibility features by the ATM industry and service providers. “This could ultimately help make public digital terminals (PDTs) more accessible to a wide range of users, from people who are not familiar with the technology, people with reading difficulties, tourists who do not master the local language or even people who may have forgotten their reading glasses,” says a statement from the European Commission.

“For example, tests could involve a programmed card that contains the user’s preferences. When the user brings the card close to the ATM, the machine instantly adapts to the user’s needs (perhaps changing the size of the font or choice of language),” the statement adds. “Other interfaces could include a mobile phone with accessibility features that enables a customer to purchase a ticket online and pay at the machine issuing the ticket using a secure code sent to their phone.

“There are hundreds of thousands of PDTs in the EU, including public transport ticket vending machines and at least 425,000 ATMs. A number of technological solutions exist on the market to help facilitate their use, such as keypads placed within reach of wheelchair users, Braille labels on the buttons or voice output via a speaker for visually impaired users. However, these essential functions are often simply not available or not activated because the ways of activating them are too complex.”

The first phase of the project is now live and involves collecting information from 3,000 users who will test different machines in order to adapt interfaces according to their needs and preferences. Testing is being carried out now at 65 la Caixa ATMs in Barcelona, where the world’s first contactless ATMs are already installed. From January 2012, 24 ticket vending machines operated by Höft & Wessel in Paderborn, Germany will also be phased in.

“Public self-service terminals can be found everywhere, and their numbers keep increasing,” says Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission with responsibility for the digital agenda. “Yet, many present a challenge for persons with disability or for some elderly persons, denying them the service.”

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