Blind person uses ATM for first time

This video shows the process that a blind man goes through in using a particular ATM for the first time; the machine he selects is one that has a ton of assistive features that are aimed at making use easier for visually impaired people, but it's apparent that this guy -- blind film critic Tommy Edison -- has to go through a heroic effort to get through a technological ritual that most of us take for granted. I also felt for Edison in light of the advice to shield your PIN from potential hidden cameras, a task that seems to add transcendent difficulty to an already tricky task.

Blind Man vs. The ATM - Tommy Edison (via Consumerist)


  1. This is interesting, i have always seen the brail and headset jack, just never seen them in use. Guess i dont use Youtube enough. His statement around 1:30 however kinda discredits your titling…..interesting nonetheless

    1. I think it’s not that he’s never used an ATM before, but that he’s never used this ATM before, so it has an unfamiliar layout and user experience.

    1. That’s what I came here to ask. That’s actually quite cool that he made film a passion of his and must be focused on the auditory elements only, but I wonder if there’s more to it.

    2. Well, aside from focusing on the auditory elements (dialogue, score, etc.), some theatres will show films with a feature called Audio Description.  A theatre in my town will provide headsets that narrate the action in the film to a blind person, so I assume it’s a thing that movies have.  Though I don’t know if the guy in this video uses that or not.

      1. It’s pretty great your local cinema has that service available, because often they’re hard to find. As someone who produces Audio Description, I asked Edison on Twitter about his use of that and he referred to a radio interview where he mentions it in passing, but he doesn’t really mention it in his movie reviews, sticking with what he can get from the writing, acting and sound design. Interesting perspective, though it kind of screams for the need for AD without mentioning its existence. Fair enough… *shrug*

    3. blind film critic? How does that work?

      I’ve watched really great foreign films without subtitles and completely understood everything that was going on because the director/cinematographer/actors knew how to convey the action on multiple levels. No reason that can’t be true for audio only. Radio was the entertainment medium of choice before television.

      1. I totally get how a blind person would be able to appreciate a film from audio alone, but you have to admit it’s still a pretty bold* career choice to write reviews for an audience that  doubtlessly perceives films very differently than he does. It would be like you or I writing reviews of foreign films for people who actually do speak the same language as the filmmakers. That said, I’m sure he brings a pretty unique perspective to the art.

        *No, I’m not using “bold” as some kind of coded criticism. Chase yer dreams and all that.

  2. We can thank the American with Disabilities Act (One of Reason Magazine’s favorite attack subjects) that there’s any kind of braille or assistance on them at all.  Makes you wonder how frustrating using them was before.

  3. I think this is more common than you think.  I am pretty sure every time there is a person in front of me at the ATM, they are a seemingly blind person using the machine for the first time. 

    Joking aside, that was interesting.  I wonder how many blind people helped with the design and testing of this ATM.  Zero? 

    1. I wonder how many blind people helped with the design and testing of this ATM.  Zero?

      Probably. A good portion of people feel pity for the blind. Pity doesn’t necessarily breed respect, so there’s a lot of well intentioned people trying to help the blind without their input because they don’t think the blind can help themselves. They think of the blind as broken people.

      This leads to all sorts of problems. For example, in many states, literacy for the blind is qualified as being able to push play on some sort of audio device. In turn, tens of thousands of blind people (probably more) can’t read braille. Unemployment for the blind who can’t read braille is greater than 85% if memory serves me. Where as employment for the blind who can read braille is around 85%. (my numbers may be off a little but the point stands).

      And when there are laws protecting the blind, they are often not enforced. So when you see an organization like the National Federation Of The Blind suing a company, remember that it serves a couple of purposes. 1. To insure laws are enforced. 2. To get people angry at the blind. Because if you’re pissed off at somebody, it’s awfully hard to pity them.

  4. The US government forced the private sector to make ATMs usable by the blind. (A good thing.)

    The US government — unlike even third world governments — prints all of its paper currency on the one size-fits-all paper with the result that blind people are at the mercy of whomever they are dealing with. (Not a good thing.)

    1. True,
      And the same government ruled that Hank Paulson’s treasury dept. was discriminating by doing so.  When actual changes are supposed to be implemented, I’m not sure.  I reckon it’s only a matter of time before dollars change.

    1. Navin_Johnson’s comment above has a link to a fairly detailed explanation of why drive-thru ATMs have braille. Basically it’s because a blind passenger shouldn’t have to rely on the driver to use the machine.

      1. it is a federal law. ADA that “ALL” ATM machines must have braille. that and theway the keypads are made “one size fits all” Also the banks did try to fight this, but the understanding was given that a blind passenger could use it if by being in the rear seat and just pulling up.

    2. I still want somebody to explain why there’s braille on the drive-thru ATMs in my town.

      The prime directive in product design is to figure out a way to use as few pieces as possible to mass-produce your product so that factories can use the minimum equipment with the minimum alterations.

      Or alternatively, for the same reason that men have nipples.

    3. Because it’s cheaper to produce one form factor than to have the over head of two different designs along with the cost of someone in charge of deciding which ATM goes where, just make one standardize model and deploy it system wide.

  5. I could see changing the size of different denominations of dollars could be a slow process. I’m sure many bill-handling mechanisms were designed under the assumption that they would only need to handle one size of bill.

    As for a blind film critic, I guess he’s filling a niche. There are audio description tracks available for many movies, and he could critique the quality of those, which is something sighted critics would ignore.

  6. I love how the headphone jack was very clearly labelled with a little sign and an arrow pointing to the actual orifice.

    Apparently nobody at the manufacturer put two and two together (‘we are labelling the jack to help THE BLIND’!).


    1. Look closely and you’ll see the headset symbol and arrow are raised, and it looks like the lettering “Audio Jack” is written on top of Braille dots. Perhaps the large white lettering on a dark gray background also usable by people with very low vision.

      1. Oh, i understand. Just saying that the whole design is counterintuitive. I’m guessing too many ridges, raised and recessed surfaces/planes.

        I’d probably make more sense to design the thing thinking of the blind FIRST, and then add the signage, colours and crap for us non-blind people. 

        Everything seemed kinda wrong. Where the slots (card & bills) are, keypad, headphone jack. Not wrong to me/you, but for the guy trying to feel his way around.

        That video was painful to watch.


        1. I’d probably make more sense to design the thing thinking of the blind FIRST, and then add the signage, colours and crap for us non-blind people. Everything seemed kinda wrong. Where the slots (card & bills) are, keypad, headphone jack. Not wrong to me/you, but for the guy trying to feel his way around.That video was painful to watch.


  7. Woh. I worked on an iPhone game that uses iPhone’s accessibility and we tested it on A LOT of non-sighted players. About 70. It got to the point where non-sighted players had no problem with the game and sighted players were actually getting confused. We had to balance out the UI for all. It’s a really hard thing to do. Seems like BOA atms need some non-sighted user testing! Great video!

  8. I was just remembering how I used to boot a computer with no monitor on my work network from a live Linux cd and launch sshd on it so I could login to it from my desktop computer. It was possible to do it without seeing what what on the screen because I knew all the steps and knew what to expect.

    This guy did ok for the first try. Once he gets the hang of this particular type of atm he should have no problem as long as the user interface remains consistent. This is a compelling reason for atm software developers to avoid getting creative and rearranging things.

    1. That’s essentially how it works. Most blind people I’ve met will only use the audio jack once or twice, if at all. When you remember the sequence of keypresses to get out an arbitrary amount of cash you can do it just as quickly as the sighted.

      Relatedly, the ubiquitous credit/debit card readers level the playing field a lot. Hand over or swipe card, type in pin.

    1. Sorry, sometimes comments with links aren’t automatically approved, and there’s a delay until we spot them.

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