A new generation of ATMs will be voice-guided, for the blind

Voice technology is stretching into new areas and may help the visually impaired with a routine activity.

Diebold Inc., the nation's leading manufacturer of automated teller machines (ATMs), and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), announced plans this month to develop a cost-effective voice-guided ATM that can be readily accessed by the blind without assistance.

The two organizations plan to work together to develop an easy way to upgrade and simplify Diebold's existing voice-guidance capabilities to permit nonvisual access.

"While many ATMs have Braille instructions on keypads and labels, not all blind people can read Braille," notes Marc Maurer, president of the NFB. "Moreover, Braille keypads and labels are static. They don't provide accessible and independently usable, sequential computer screen instructions to guide a blind customer through a complex bank transaction. As a result, blind customers currently have little choice but to rely on others to bank for them."

Diebold's voice-guided ATMs work with a standard headset - owned by many visually impaired people - that can be plugged into the ATM to receive voice instructions in complete privacy.

They will offer blind customers total access to the same banking functions available to sighted customers, including cash withdrawals, balance inquiries, and account transfers.

The first models will be installed and tested in Washington, D.C. Once testing is complete, Diebold and NFB will cooperate to adapt the technology to Diebold's entire family of ATMs in the US.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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