Skip to 0 minutes and 2 secondsVOICEOVER: In this step, we will talk a bit about the fact that the problems of using technology and machines in the home and outside of it are not limited to practical concerns of inconvenience. Rather, there are deeper impacts that affect people on many levels. For example, they often have socio-psychological repercussions. For example, anxiety, especially for time dependent actions or when there is a cue to use the SST. Or indecision-- for example, being unable to make choices because of pressures of time or social pressure. There's also elements of trust. For example, not believing that the machine is able to understand the request that was made and making a mistake. And finally, there's also security and privacy concerns.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsFor example, worrying about what others might find out about your information and using it to harm you or your property. All of this of course, has the effect of undermining people's confidence to carry out transactions and live in the modern world. It impacts on their feelings of self-efficacy and in some cases their ability to live independently and to be autonomous. Try listening to the following real life stories recounted by people who would not consider themselves disabled or elderly, but who have found their inability to use self-service terminals a bewildering and disempowering experience.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 secondsSPEAKER 1: My husband had an uncomfortable experience that turned out OK in the end. He was literally stranded in an end of the line Parisian metro station when he discovered he did not have enough change for a metro ticket. He had a 5 euro note and no change. The ticket cost was one euro 50 and the machine only took coins. It was obviously expected that everyone would know this and have coins with them. It was mid-morning and there was no one around-- no officials, no commuters. Also there were no shops, just a deserted metro station. He does not speak a word of French.

Skip to 2 minutes and 1 secondHe was thinking about how he should leave the station to get some change, but was worried about losing his way. He had passed no shops on the way to the station, just blocks of flats. And it was too far to go back to his hotel. Eventually, a lady came into the station and he asked her for help by miming his situation, showing her his money, the machine, and shrugging his shoulders. She could have walked on and ignored him, but she didn't. She did not have any change either, but she did have a spare metro ticket that she gave him. Without her, he might still have been standing there. He is now very nervous about situations like this.

Skip to 2 minutes and 41 secondsSPEAKER 2: I found it really hard to understand how to use the self-scanning checkout machine in the supermarket. But I didn't want to let the challenge beat me, particularly as there are now only one or two real cashiers in my local supermarket. So I chose a time of day when I knew it was normally quiet and I just picked up a few things and took my time to read the instructions carefully. I tried to do things step by step, but the instructions were going by on a ticker tape on a screen, and they kept cycling through before I could read them and understand them properly.

Skip to 3 minutes and 12 secondsSeeing I was there for some time, a shop assistant came over to ask me if I wanted help. I told her I was trying to learn to use the machine. She took this to mean that I wanted to be helped. So she said it's really simple, look, you just do this, and this, and then pay. So although she was very kind, I still do not know how to do the checkout on my own.

Social and psychological impacts

What are the deeper impacts of the inability to use machines beyond the practical problems? In this video you will hear about the social and psychological issues that can arise that may be disabling and disempowerng.

Raised anxiety levels result in loss of choice

It has been found that people who cannot use their consumer electronics and domestic appliances or technologies in public places with confidence, begin to have high levels of anxiety and eventually give up using them, unless someone is there to help.

This leads to loss of choice when people cannot watch the TV channels they want or use the local ATM.

This affects independence and dis-empowers people with disabilities and the elderly.

You can read more about this in a paper called Mastering Technology for Greater Autonomy: Device familiarisation for older users via Games, (look in publications for the year 2012).

Low self-esteem can impact independence

Marketing studies on supermarket self-service check-outs have shown that people who do not master the use of the technology, especially older people, suffer from low self-esteem and low self-efficacy, once again impacting on independence.

They feel unable to cope with the modern world that it is not designed for them: they are ‘designed out’.

Worse, those who are ‘designed out’ can feel they are a burden on others and must depend on them to help them to do things they used to do themselves, like purchasing tickets or groceries, and getting money out of the bank.

You may find this research article The Roles of Habit, Self-Efficacy, and Satisfaction in Driving Continued Use of Self-Service Technologies A Longitudinal Study from UNSW, Australia of interest.

The technology is here to stay: The following trade news article from Kiosk Marketplace talks about how widespread the use of self-service checkouts in the UK has become, despite the problems. However, in 2014 ‘nearly one in two U.K. shoppers need help with self-service checkout’.

Have you, your family, friends or work colleagues ever felt ‘designed out’?


© This video is created by The University of the Aegean and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

© This text 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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Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton