The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's oldest and largest organization of blind persons, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Cardtronics, which has the largest ATM portfolio in the United States, today announced a landmark agreement that will make the vast majority of the ATMs owned, sold, or serviced by Cardtronics accessible to the blind by July 1, 2010.
The agreement, which ends years of litigation, requires 23,350 ATMs located in places like drugstores and train stations to be equipped with a voice guidance feature that can be activated by plugging headphones into a jack on the machines. The National Federation of the Blind will monitor the progress of Cardtronics in making the machines accessible.
Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The ATM is the most common way for members of the sighted public to conduct financial transactions. To be full participants in modern society, blind people must have access to these devices. This agreement represents a monumental step forward for all blind Americans. We look forward to working with Cardtronics to make sure that blind people everywhere can experience the same fast, convenient service that sighted people enjoy."
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said: "With today's technology, there is no reason that every ATM shouldn't be outfitted with this equipment as a means to comply with access requirements. This agreement will result in blind consumers across the country having improved access to one of the most basic devices that we take for granted."
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act required ATMs to be made accessible to the blind. Large financial services institutions such as Bank of America have been installing ATMs with a voice guidance feature for many years, but devices installed in places like convenience stores, movie theaters, and shopping malls have not kept pace with this trend. To remedy this situation, the National Federation of the Blind and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts brought suit against E*Trade Bank and E*Trade Access. On June 30, 2004, E*Trade's ATM portfolio was acquired by Cardtronics, Inc., which is now the largest deployer of ATMs both in the United States and in the world. This landmark agreement is the culmination of that litigation. Cardtronics ATMs provide customers not only with the ability to make financial transactions, but also to purchase items like stamps and movie tickets or to pay utility or cell phone bills. The agreement requires that all consumer transactions on Cardtronics ATMs must be able to be performed independently by the blind.