Lack of ATMs for blind leave thousands in dark

By John Liu ,The China Post

There are only 62 ATMs in Taiwan that are designed for the visually impaired, which equates to one ATM for every 3,000 blind people. While ATMs makes it easy for the majority of people to take out cash, make transfers and make payments, this convenience is not really felt by the visually impaired. There are about 180,000 blind people in Taiwan, who in general are unable to use ATMs independently. According to the Parents’ Association for the Visually Impaired, most of the visually impaired rely on memory to use ATMs. They are usually accompanied by acquaintances on their first trial. After that, it takes many “trials and errors” before they remember the correct order of buttons required to make their desired transactions. For number buttons, there is a protruding point on the number 5, which is located in the center. Blind people usually use this button as a reference to find the other desired buttons. Most blind people will remember the “withdrawal” button on an ATM, but seldom try other functions.

An Uphill Battle to Use ATMs According to testimony given by a visually impaired Taiwanese, using an ATM sometimes feels like “facing an uphill battle,” and should anything “unexpected” happen, what they remember previously will be rendered useless. For instance, the interviewee said that once an ATM was undergoing a software update and just froze for some reason. As a result, he was unable to retrieve his debit card. Oftentimes, once someone who is visually impaired learns how to operate an ATM, they would seldom change machines. Usually they would perform wire transfers or check balancing at home, through online banking with a computer specifically designed for the visually impaired. However, since the ATM “evolved” to utilize touch screens, the visually impaired have been pushed back to the starting point, and all the practices they tried so hard to remember are rendered useless. With the touch screen, most blind people simply “throw in the towel.”

Specially Designed ATMs According to Yang Sheng-hong (楊聖弘), secretary-general of the Technology Development Association for the Disabled, some financial institutions have discovered the inconvenience faced by the visually impaired, and are setting up more special-designed ATMs. Nevertheless, there are not many of them and financial institutions have not taken the initiative to inform and educate the visually impaired.

Local sources said that there are a mere 62 ATMs in Taiwan that are designed to be blind-friendly, and that equates to one ATM for every 3,000 visually impaired, according to the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC). Furthermore, these machines are not spread all over Taiwan. Of the 62 specially designed ATMs, 22 are located in Taipei City and seven in New Taipei City. Hsinchu, Miaoli, Yunlin, Hualien and Taitung as well as surrounding islets have no such machines. When heard there are 29 specially designed ATMs in the Greater Taipei area, many visually impaired expressed surprise, showing that they were not properly informed by financial institutions. In fact, there are two types of specially designed ATMs. While one is designed for the blind, the other one is designed for those in wheelchairs. According to the FSC, there are a total of 13,517 ATMs that can be accessed by those in wheelchairs.