Accessibility Services staff members have received questions from stakeholders seeking guidance on the accessibility requirements for Automatic Teller Machines (ATM’s) that are found in the 2010 ADA Design Standards recently released by the US Department of Justice.

We have assembled the three (3) most commonly asked questions about ATM accessibility below along with our responses.

Question #1:

If an entity currently has ATM machines in places of public accommodation that comply with the 1991 Standards (ADAAG), are there steps that must be taken to “update” the existing ATM’s to comply with the 2010 ADA Standards – and if so – what are those steps?

Accessibility Services Response/Recommendation:
If an entity supplies/manufactures ATM’s, those machines that are currently in use should comply with either the 1991 ADAAG requirements for ATM’s ( Sections 4.1.3 (20) and 4.34) or with the 2010 ADA Standards requirements. Note that the 2010 ADA Standards for ATM’s are the same as the Revised ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines issued for ATM’s by the US Access Board in July, 2004. The sections in the 2010 ADA Standards that scope ATM’s and provide technical criteria for ATM’s are Sections 220 and 707. Again, from now until March 15, 2012, owners/manufacturers have the option of providing ATM’s that comply with either of these two standards.

The 2010 ADA Standards provide clear guidance on achieving accessibility at ATM’s. The 1991 Standards were not as illustrative. For instance, 1991 ADAAG States:

4.34.5 Equipment for Persons with Vision Impairments.
Instructions and all information for use shall be made accessible to and independently usable by persons with vision impairments.”

There are no additional technical criteria provided that illustrates how to achieve accessibility for persons with vision impairments.

In contrast, the 2010 ADA Standards are much more illustrative. For example, Section 707.5 “Speech Output” clearly illustrates the requirements for ATM’s to be accessible to people with vision impairments. See below:

“…Machines shall be speech enabled. Operating instructions and orientation, visible transaction prompts, user input verification, error messages, and all displayed information for full use shall be accessible to and independently usable by individuals with vision impairments. Speech shall be delivered through a mechanism that is readily available to all users, including but not limited to, an industry standard connector or a telephone handset. Speech shall be recorded or digitized human, or synthesized.
1. Audible tones shall be permitted instead of speech for visible output that is not displayed for security purposes, including but not limited to, asterisks representing personal identification numbers.
2. Advertisements and other similar information shall not be required to be audible unless they convey information that can be used in the transaction being conducted.
3. Where speech synthesis cannot be supported, dynamic alphabetic output shall not be required to be audible.
Advisory 707.5 Speech Output.
If an ATM provides additional functions such as dispensing coupons, selling theater tickets, or providing copies of monthly statements, all such functions must be available to customers using speech output. To avoid confusion at the ATM, the method of initiating the speech mode should be easily discoverable and should not require specialized training. For example, if a telephone handset is provided, lifting the handset can initiate the speech mode.
707.5.1 User Control.
Speech shall be capable of being repeated or interrupted. Volume control shall be provided for the speech function. EXCEPTION: Speech output for any single function shall be permitted to be automatically interrupted when a transaction is selected. 707.5.2 Receipts. Where receipts are provided, speech output devices shall provide audible balance inquiry information, error messages, and all other information on the printed receipt necessary to complete or verify the transaction. ”

Ultimately – ATM’s that comply with 1991 ADAAG do not require modifications until March 15, 2012. Additionally, the operable parts of machines (height of buttons, etc…) do not have to be lowered to 48 inches above finish floor (as required by the 2010 ADA Standards) until such time that the ATM machine is altered/replaced after March 15, 2012. The requirements to upgrade the ATM capabilities to assist people with vision impairments however must be addressed effective March 15, 2012. See Question #2 for additional guidance.

Question #2:

Does the “safe harbor” clause in the 2010 ADA Standards apply to existing ATM machines that comply with the 1991 Standards?

Accessibility Services Response/Recommendation:
The safe harbor clause applies to the following ATM features:

  • The height of operable parts (this includes buttons/keypads and other operable parts that may require user activation on the machine)
  • Bins – if provided – for items such as envelopes, waste paper, other purposes

If the operable parts of existing machines or the highest operable part of bins are compliant with 1991 ADAAG and are mounted no higher than 54 inches above finish floor, the safe harbor would apply to these features. When these features on existing machines are altered after March 15, 2012, the highest operable part for all items referenced above can be no higher than 48 inches above finish floor.

The Department of Justice has stated in the Final Rule (28 CFR Part 36 issued 9/15/10) that communication-related requirements to make ATMs usable by individuals who are blind or have low vision are not subject to the safe harbor protection. This is because the Department considers the communication-related elements of ATMs to be auxiliary aids and services, to which the safe harbor for elements built in compliance with the 1991 standards does not apply.

The safe harbor clause does not apply to the following communication related ATM features outlined in the 2010 ADA Standards including:

  • Speech Output
  • Input devices
  • Display Screen requirements
  • Braille Instructions

The Department has also stated that covered entities (i.e. entities that manufacture/supply ATM’s) are not required to take measures that would result in a fundamental alteration of its program or would cause undue burdens.

Covered Entities should evaluate the existing stock of ATM’s and develop a plan to upgrade the accessibility features of ATM’s that do not comply with the 2010 ADA Standards to meet the new requirements – including those requirements for speech output – and begin identifying those locations where non-compliant ATM’s will be altered/replaced to comply. This plan is in essence a “Transition Plan” detailing the entities intent to comply with the 2010 ADA Standards and the manner/methods which will be used to identify non-compliant ATM Locations and an Action Plan to provide ATM’s compliant with the 2010 ADA Standards over a defined period of time. It is recommended to begin the development and implementation of this plan immediately to show a good faith effort to comply with the updated ADA Standards.

For your information, the text of the Department’s Final Rule on the application of “safe harbor” to ATM’s under the 2010 ADA Standards from 28 CFR Part 36 published in the Federal Register (Volume 75, Number 178, page 56285) on September 15, 2010 is included below:

The 2010 Standards set out detailed requirements for ATMs, including communication-related requirements to make ATMs usable by individuals who are blind or have low vision. In the NPRM, the Department discussed the application of a safe harbor to the communication-related elements of ATMs. The NPRM explained that the Department considers the communication-related elements of ATMs to be auxiliary aids and services, to which the safe harbor for elements built in compliance with the 1991 standards does not apply. The Department received several comments regarding this issue. Several commenters representing banks objected to the exclusion of communication-related aspects of ATMs from the safe harbor provision. They explained that the useful life of ATMs–on average 10 years–was longer than the Department noted; thus, without the safe harbor, banks would be forced to retrofit many ATMs in order to comply with the proposed regulation. Such retrofitting, they noted, would be costly to the industry. A few representatives of the disability community commented that communication-related aspects of ATMs should be excluded from the safe harbor. The Department consistently has taken the position that the communication-related elements of ATMs are auxiliary aids and services, rather than structural elements. See 28 CFR part 36, app.B at 728 (2009). Thus, the safe harbor provision does not apply to these elements. The Department believes that the limitations on the effective communication requirements, which provide that a covered entity does not have to take measures that would result in a fundamental alteration of its program or would cause undue burdens, provide adequate protection to covered entities that operate ATMs.”

Question #3:

After the mandated effective date of March 15, 2012, what are the accessibility requirements for ATM machines?

Accessibility Services Response/Recommendation:
The scoping and technical requirements for ATM’s found in the 2010 ADA Standards are provided via the links below. It should be noted that Section 707 of the 2010 Standards adds specific technical requirements for speech output, privacy, tactilely-discernible input controls, display screens, and Braille instructions to the general accessibility requirements set out in the 1991 Standards. Machines shall be speech enabled and exceptions are provided that cover when audible tones are permitted, when advertisements or similar information are provided, and where speech synthesis cannot be supported. The 1991 Standards required these machines to be accessible to and independently usable by persons with visual impairments, but they did not contain any technical specifications for these features.

Should you have any questions about the accessibility of ATM’s, please feel free to contact Jennifer Perry, Compliance Specialist, Accessibility Services, at