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Problems with Self Service Technology

As you have seen self-service machines or technologies can be problematic for all sorts of reasons.

In this step we look in greater detail at the barriers encountered by many and possible solutions that might help overcome these.


The KÄKÄTE project team in Finland worked with elderly people to explore the issues that arose when they used cash machines.

Some of the main ones to do with digital accessibility are:

  • many self-service machines rely heavily on users’ visual senses - for instance reading screen displays or instructions printed on the machine.

  • people who are blind or vision impaired may not see the display at all and cannot use touch screens

  • dyslexic and low literacy users cannot always understand the information displayed on the screen or their instructions of use

  • people with problems of manual dexterity, for instance missing limbs, or hand tremors or problems with hand eye coordination have difficulties to use touch screens

  • older people, people with manual or vision difficulties, people who are low literacy users need more time to interact and are often ‘timed out’

  • people using wheelchairs, may not be able to get close enough to use the machines or the controls of the interface may be positioned too high for them to use. This can also be a problem for people who are of small stature and children

More details about these barriers and how they impact on certain disabilities can be found in ‘Problems with Self-Service Terminals’.


Ideas for improving the situation could involve:

  • the use of spoken assistance, ‘talking machines’ that speak aloud what is written on the screen into user’s earphones

  • machines that accept voice commands

  • machines that offer clearly defined keys

  • the use of smart and ‘contactless’ cards

  • cards can have information that carry personal preferences and tell the machine to transform the interface to the language and the font chosen by the user

  • those choosing sites for the machines need to situate them away from strong sunlight, or overhead lighting which makes it hard to read the screen, and where they are accessible to people using wheelchairs or walkers, or having restricted mobility and needing more space for instance, a young mother with a child in a push chair

An example of collaboration between the banking industry and an organisation advocating for people who are blind or vision impaired is reported by the Royal Bank of Scotland, it concerns a smartphone app and The Piraeus Bank Group describe the changes they have made to their e-branch concept to make online banking services more accessible. These examples illustrate how user centred design can provide solutions.

Do these solutions go far enough?

Remember interactions with technologies should be easy for everyone!

Inclusive technology interactions can challenge designers to be creative and turn their creativity into innovations that everyone enjoys using!

Not everyone can hold a card and insert it into a machine, and many people have problems remembering their PIN (Personal Identity Number).

Could alternatives, such as contactless cards and biometric technologies to recognise a finger print instead of a PIN provide easier access? Or do you think that these solutions cause new problems?

© This work is a derivative of a work created by The University of the Aegean, and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence adapted and used by the University of Southampton. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

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This article is from the free online course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton