The epidemic of inaccessible Touch Screen Point Of Sale Devices to blind consumers

by Jeffrey Stark

September 25th, 2010

Blind consumers may soon no longer be able to do many tasks and activities that they currently perform. Simple tasks like going shopping for groceries, clothing, paying for lodging or travelling may soon be a task that is more difficult or may times impossible unless they are willing to put themselves at a far greater risk for theft, fraud and financial ruin. This effects over 3 million blind, low vision & other print disabled Canadians.
Touch Screen point of sale (POS) devices are becoming more and more of an issue for blind consumers. Many companies are implementing these smooth surface systems where the icons/buttons and text change from screen to screen; but have no tactile feedback for a blind consumer & provide no auditory information about the charge you are accepting. This epidemic is hitting grocery stores, electronic stores, clothing stores, restaurants etc. It has even hit Canada Post who use a touch screen system for these items. This effectively means that a blind person would not be able to pay for an item with their credit card or bank card through interrac. This type of scenario could create a situation where blind folk become highly valuable targets to rob; because you know they are likely to have a larger than average amount of cash on their person because they can’t pay for things any other way and you may really score if they were carrying the cash to pay for a big ticket item like a TV or computer. If you can’t independently verify that you are being charged the correct amount or expected amount, you are liable for the cost that gets authorized through this POS system and no bank or credit card company will help you.

The banks and credit companies use a PIN system for authentication. If you can’t use the POS device, you can’t independently enter your pin. If you give your PIN to another person you are now giving them full independent access to your finances and they have the power to clear you out financially and you are liable and no bank or credit card company will help you. So scenarios’ where you get a friend, buddy or store employee to enter the PIN for you are not an option.

The barrier is not a technology barrier it is a lack of will, oversight or regulation. Code factory on windows mobile, Google on android and Apple have all shown that a touch screen device can be made accessible using existing technology. Apple has proven that touch screen can be made extremely usable by blind people. Every iphone/ipod/ipad has a built in touch screen interface for none sighted users. This interface is non-obtrusive and a single device can be toggled on and off easily so the device can be used by both sighted and non-sighted in a single accessible device.
A working group of blind Canadians is being assembled to advocate for a change. Please email me if you are interested in joining.
Also, EJ has posted some great resources and supplemental information here:


  1. Posted October 26, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Hi Jeffrey,

    I would add also that people with motor impairments can encounter barriers when trying to use these devices. There are ergonomic issues but it can also be as simple as placement of devices.

    I have experienced this personally when I broke my hip last year and had to use a wheelchair for a couple of months. The nearby drugstore where I shopped had decided to lock down the devices onto the counter, making it impossible to move it, permitting a person in a wheelchair to have it closer to use it. In my case, I insisted so they would then have to call a manager with a key to come unlock for me to use. I have heard of others who have had a hard time and were less successful in getting them to unlock it.

    I do believe that this is a critical technology and that it must be designed for use by everyone. I would be very much interested in hearing about other cases.

  2. Posted October 26, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head. the CSA Standard for kiosks should be applied to all these systems as a bare minimum. I saw the same thing you described at the canada post counter.

  3. Posted September 5, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    “have no tactile feedback for a blind consumer & provide no auditory information about the charge you are accepting” – This is really striking. Thank you for being sensitive to blind consumers who equally deserve to make the most of touch POS and other touch technologies.

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