What Do We Want? (Accessible Pin Pads!)

I love using my credit card for just about everything. I’m loath to spend my emergency cash on, say, that Starbucks coffee or carton of milk. Cash may be quicker—and for Canadians at least, perfectly accessible—but I’d rather save it for times when debit machines break down. I hate to ask a cab driver to stop at an ATM, for example.

There is a trend toward pin pads that are partially or totally operated via a touch screen, and it’s not an accessible one. Despite the fact that technology exists to make touch screens usable for blind people (just bring headphones), I have yet to encounter a machine that I can operate independently. If I’m lucky, the number pad itself is tactile. I’ve not been lucky.

Normally, I don’t make a huge deal of partially or wholly inaccessible products unless they seriously impact my and other’s lives (even though accessibility makes sense). This definitely counts as a product that does. What do you suppose happens when I face an inaccessible pin pad? That’s right: I have to reveal my pin. Usually, I’m with a sighted friend whom I trust implicitly, but since I do run errands on my own, as most blind people often do, I’ve had to give my pin to complete strangers. Yes, the likelihood of my pin being stolen is small, but it’s still possible and, with the theft of pins and replication of cards becoming more prevalent, it’s a real risk.

I feel that, for something as basic and necessary as payment methods, we have the right to total accessibility. I’m not aware of the advantages of touch screens, though I imagine they must exist or people wouldn’t be manufacturing them, but I’m not sure if they justify putting a chunk of the population at risk. Blind people aren’t statistically common, but we are definitely out there, and we deserve to keep our credit and debit cards secure, just like everyone else.

Since the technology exists to make these machines accessible, I see no reason at all for continued failure to implement it. I suppose this might involve a financial burden, especially if the machines are replaced rather than modified, but even if they are produced more accessibly in the future, that would reduce and eventually eliminate security risks for blind people. Once that’s done, we will face the same safety risks as everyone else. Machines will still be compromised, but at least we’re not being expected to give our pins away to people who could exploit them.


As fellow blogger Blindbeader points out, these touch-screen pin pads don’t just inconvenience blind people. They pose accessibility challenges for other populations as well: “I know several people who have good vision, but who have challenges using touch screen due to other concerns with their hands and fingers. To say nothing of the installation of such pin pads so high up that they cannot be lowered to those using wheelchairs.”


I understand that these things don’t always occur to manufacturers at first, but if we play our cards right, they’ll know, and then they’ll have no excuse.

So what do we want? (Accessible pin pads!)
When do we want ‘em? (Um…at a time that is sensible and financially feasible?)


8 thoughts on “What Do We Want? (Accessible Pin Pads!)

  1. I completely agree. And I don’t beleive it’s an accessibility issue for blind people alone. I know several people who have good vision, but who have challenges using touch screen due to other concerns with their hands and fingers. To say nothing of the installation of such pin pads so high up that they cannot be lowered to those using wheelchairs (something I never thought about until a wheelchair user pointed it out to me). I believe it is a systemic issue, both for manufacturers of these debit machines and to those who install them.
    I had an experience at a Canada Post outlet about two weeks ago where I was sending some packages. I paid for one parcel using cash, and didn’t have enough to pay for the rest of my parcels. I was told that the machine was a touch screen, and was asked if that was OK. Obviously, it wasn’t one of those partial touch screens (a la Walmart or Superstore) that DID at the very least have a physical key pad, but a FULL touch screen. Thankfully, the Canada Post location had another counter at the front that did have an accessible pin pad, and I was able to pay for the rest of my parcels there.
    It shouldn’t have to be this way, and it saddens me that a federal organization has implemented such inaccessible technology that, now that I think about it, probably couldn’t have been lowered to the level of someone who uses a chair…

  2. In my area I haven’t seen these readers for quite a while. The NFB was quick to complain, and they were quickly replaced with readers that have both a touch screen and a numeric keypad below the touchscreen and a rubber gasket to hide the buttons being pressed for better security for all.

  3. Pingback: “We Respect Your Privacy (But We Can’t Guarantee It)” | Where's Your Dog?

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