Blind double-amputee cricketer bats for touchscreen EFTPOS devices to have tactile keypads

In 2002 Martin Stewart, a then 39-year old blind advocate was on his way to work one ordinary day when he stepped into what he thought was an open carriage doorway of a train that had just pulled in to Richmond Station, in Melbourne, Victoria, and fell into the void between carriages and on to the tracks.  Despite the desperate attempts of an onlooker to flag down the driver, the train took off and dragged him 200 metres along the tracks. The train tore off his lower right leg, his right arm and the top of his left ear, fractured his cheekbone and ribs, and left him with painful friction burns down the front of his body.

That same year, 2002, the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) introduced Industry Standards on Accessibility of Electronic Banking, after blind and other disability advocates around Australia lobbied them to act to remove barriers to their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) devices, Automated Telephone Banking, and Internet Banking (15 years on, the ABA is in the process of reviewing and updating these standards to ensure the ongoing accessibility of banking in a changing world).

Martin continued his advocacy work after his traumatic accident, and he now has a message for the ABA and the four big banks it represents:

“The new standards must include specs for tactile keypads for PIN (Personal Identification Number) entry to be fitted to all touch screen EFTPOS and ATMs and Self-Service kiosks.”

Although Martin lost his dominant right hand in the accident (causing him to no longer be able to read Braille), he makes the most of his remaining limbs and is an avid blind cricket player and a whiz at using his iPhone.  But new touchscreen EFTPOS devices such as the Commonwealth Bank’s Albert are preventing him from the basic ability of entering his PIN at checkout, something he was able to manage on tactile keypads.

Albert has been available to Australian merchants since March 2015 and the Commonwealth Bank is marketing it to retailers, cinemas, restaurants, event and festival organisers, in addition to other businesses and government services that use EFTPOS terminals.

The Commonwealth Bank retro-fitted an Accessibility Mode option onto its Albert touchscreen EFTPOS tablet, but it is gesture-based and  impractical for many people to use, including those who have low or no vision; limited hand dexterity; cognitive challenges; older people and those not au fait with touchscreen devices.

Kate Begley of Vision Australia states:

Regardless of attempts to familiarise people who are blind or have low vision with tablet gesture-based devices, it must be emphasised that this is neither the preferred, nor the most suitable payment option for the majority of our community.”

Martin explains:

“Even though I am able to use my iPhone in a private setting, it is nerve-wracking to be confronted by a touchscreen payment device in the usually busy and noisy environments in which these machines are found, often with impatient customers queuing behind and making exasperated comments and noises.  A physical button keypad which is permanently attached to the device is not a backward, out-of-touch request at all. This physical keypad will enable accessible, efficient and inclusive access.  In California it’s been law since 2005 that tactile number keypads be attached to all touchscreen POS (Point-of-Sale) devices, so it’s not as if by requesting these in Australia we are asking for anything new. So why should we put up with what blind citizens in other countries have not!  We have the absolute right to financially transact with our independence, privacy and security intact.  If Albert is left to spread without very major changes to its design, it will be the precursor to other such devices in many other environments, such as taxis and teller machines, creating further marginalisation for us.

The Digital Gap Initiative, a group advocating for legislation and standards on digital technology, questions how Albert could have been released by the Commonwealth Bank despite the ABA’s Industry Standards on Accessibility of Electronic Banking, and fully backs Martin’s call for the fitting of tactile keypads to payment systems.

Albert highlights the need for national, compliance-based standards on digital accessibility, but updating the voluntary ABA standards is a step in the right direction.

Martin is part of a group of several consumers who are blind or have other impairments and have lodged complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Please sign Martin’s change.org petition

DGI 2015 Wrap-up and what’s ahead for 2016

How DGI was born

Gisele Mesnage founded the Digital Gap Initiative (DGI) on a stormy Sunday in Sydney on 7 December 2014.

Gisele recalls:

“At the time I was in the midst of a legal action pursuant to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) against supermarket giant Coles, over the accessibility of their website. It was at least the 12th DDA complaint I had lodged over web accessibility issues since 2001. My experience in conciliating these cases led me to believe that a more systemic approach – including legislative reforms – was needed to tackle digital accessibility issues in our digital age. So on Sunday 7 December 2014 I was bouncing ideas on this question over the phone with a friend, Leah Grolman. We were both drinking Rooibos tea and chatting between breaks in the wild thunderclaps that raged over Sydney. By the end of the storm, the Digital Gap Initiative had been born and named.”

Connecting

Gisele then connected with people who shared the vision for the goals of DGI.  On 15 April 2015 an inaugural meeting of an informal DGI management committee was held over Skype.  It was decided that DGI would operate as a network.

Launch events in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra

Melbourne – Global Accessibility Awareness Day

On 13 May 2015 the company AccessHQ hosted an event at its Melbourne offices to launch DGI.  Ted McCoskey, who had taken on the role of President of DGI, and Gisele Mesnage, founder of DGI, both spoke at this gathering.

Sydney – Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

This was followed by a bigger launch event at the Sydney Hilton on 21 May 2015, Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The event was again sponsored by AccessHQ and attended by over 50 government and business representatives.  Ted and Gisele again addressed this gathering.  One of the guests at the event was Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, who invited DGI to hold a launch event at Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

Parliament House, Canberra – World Usability Day (WUD)

The Canberra launch took place at Australian Parliament House on 12 November 2015 on World Usability Day (WUD).

The event was co-hosted by Senators Rachel Siewert and Lee Rhiannon (the Greens) and Senator Jo Lindgren (Liberal Party) and Senator Carol Brown (ALP).

The launch event, opened by DGI Founder, Gisele Mesnage (download Opening Speech document here) was attended by 60 people, including parliamentarians and other government representatives, as well as business and community leaders.

The highpoint of the event was Gisele’s opening speech (below), and a panel discussion hosted by Ted McCoskey. Panellists included Greg Barnett (AccessHQ), Roger Sniezek (Coles), Andrew Arch (Digital Transformation Office), Christos Petrou (IBM), Alex Varley (Media Access Australia), Johmar Gazo (NAB), Sarah Pulis (PWC) and James Newton (DGI).  The animated discussion explored the theme of inclusion and innovation.  The event received a special video message from Lainey Feingold of the Lainey Feingold Legal Office in the US.

Acknowledgements

We extend warm thanks to all those who donated to our chuffed.org appeal and made it possible for three DGI members to travel to Canberra to participate in the event.  We also wish to extend special thanks to Coles for paying for the catering at the event, to NAB for a $1,000 donation, and to all panellists and other supporters who assisted us with practical tasks.

Other 2015 Highlights

Our Focus for 2016

  • Accessible online shopping such as Coles
  • Continued campaigning on Touch Screen POS devices such as the “Albert”
  • Advocating for designated accreditation codes to be applied to ICT, web and other digital accessibility skills training under the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)
  • Accessibility and ICT public procurement
  • Advocating against PDF as a sole format for online downloadable documents
  • Networking
  • Opening up discussion on compliance-based standard on digital accessibility

Digital Gap Initiative Takes Call for Action on Digital Inclusion to Parliament

On 12 November 2015, Digital Gap Initiative will call on the government to kick-start serious discussion on what is being done to ensure access for up to 1 in 5 Australians currently locked out of the digital marketplace.

The DGI launch event at federal Parliament, hosted by cross-party representatives Senators Rachel Siewert, Jo Lindgren and Carol Brown, follows DGI launch events in Sydney and Melbourne, and coincides with World Usability Day. The Canberra event features a panel discussion with Coles, the Digital Transformation Office (tbc), IBM, NAB, PwC Australia, AccessHQ and Media Access Australia, chaired by DGI President, Ted McCoskey.

“The panel will focus on ‘Innovation’. How can Australia be innovative in this domain? What are business and government doing to ensure that when they innovate, they innovate for everybody?” Mr McCoskey explains.

Finish Reading: Digital Gap Initiative Takes Call for Action on Digital Inclusion to Parliament