Meeting the ADA compliance challenge

By | July 3, 2014

Meeting the ADA Kiosk compliance challenge

Article from KioskMarketplace July 2014
For Greg Buzek, president of Franklin, Tennessee-based research firm IHL Group, ADA compliance makes good business sense for kiosk operators.

“Understanding your customers means being able to accommodate all of them,” Buzek said. “This is particularly true whenever kiosk are deployed in stores. Retailers lose $435 billion globally due to products being out of stock. A key opportunity to regain those lost sales is through kiosks that provide information on stock levels and an ordering capability. But these kiosks need to be available, approachable and reachable by all of a retailer’s customers. Which of your customers are you willing to lose, the physically-handicapped ones? I’m not sure that’s good for business or PR.”

Complicated requirements

“The problem is that ADA certification requirements aren’t clear in many cases, as they make references to different categories that could overlap in the execution of a kiosk’s design,” Ron Bowers, senior vice president of business development at Grafton, Wisconsin-based kiosk vendor Frank Mayer & Associates, said. “ADA really doesn’t provide black-and-white specifications as to what kiosk deployers and integrators should do.”

Kiosk integrators have a constant responsibility to stay on top of ADA requirements and give the best guidance they can to their retail and other types of clients, Bowers stressed. “Frank Mayer’s director of technology is responsible for our ADA approvals, and he has to go through a constant update process,” he said.

The challenge is that it is virtually impossible to design a totally accessible kiosk for a public place that complies with U.S. regulatory requirements and is still cost-effective. “Some retailers, because of the sheer cost, decide to comply with ADA but not all the way,” said Bowers. “For example, they won’t install a headset for the hearing-impaired in their kiosks. Probably the best example of an ADA-compliant kiosk is Amtrak’s Quik-Trak ticket kiosk.”



Kiosks should be designed minimally to allow a consumer in a wheelchair to come up to the kiosk and access all interaction and input devices, touchscreens and keypads comfortably straight-on or sideways from their wheelchair, Bowers said. “The kiosk’s height, reach and ease of input must be designed with the ADA consumer’s best input in mind,” he said.

Tim Mancuso, vice president of sales at Marion, Indiana-based kiosk manufacturer Zivelo, said that important considerations for kiosks’ ADA compliance include:

  • What is the maximum height or “touch point” for the user interaction?
  • What is the overall height and reach of each component presented for user access?
  • Does the mounting of the kiosk present any obstruction? If so, this should be taken into consideration.

“ADA compliance as it relates to kiosks is a combination of proper kiosk design, appropriate installation and site preparation, and accommodating application development,” Mancuso said. “Ensuring that the hardware, software and facilities access is within compliance is essential to a successful and user-friendly kiosk project. At Zivelo, we consult with our clients and partners to help them properly determine the best plan for ADA compliance. Simply ordering an ‘ADA-compliant kiosk’ isn’t enough — there is more involved than the physical dimensions of the kiosk itself.”


ADA specifies that the forward or side height and reach of a kiosk or ATM should be between 15 inches and 48 inches from the ground, unless there is an obstruction, in which case the side reach is reduced to 46 inches and forward reach to 44 inches.

“Kiosk deployers should consider alternative pointing devices or interaction methods for operable parts outside these guidelines,” said Dusty Lutz, general manager of NCR’s Retail Self-service Solutions Group.

The clear floor or ground space around an ATM or kiosk must be 30 inches minimum by 48 inches minimum. “For self-checkout terminals, we recommend a parallel/side approach,” said Lutz. “For kiosks, it varies between a front approach and a side/parallel approach, but typically most kiosks have a side/parallel approach.”

A kiosk’s payment device must meets the ADA guidelines for numeric keys such as an ascending or descending 12-key layout, a raised dot on 5, and function keys that stand out visually from the background surface. The display screens need to be visible from a point located 40 inches above the clear floor space, and characters displayed on the screen must be at least 3/16 inch high with sufficient contrast.

Visual and hearing impairment

“Most people only seem to think ‘wheelchair’ when considering ADA, and it seems as though vision impairment and hearing impairment are largely ignored,” said Frank Olea, CEO of Cerritos, California-based kiosk vendor Olea Kiosks. “In reality, ADA has to account for so much more than just people in wheelchairs.”

For instance, “people who have vision impairment can be helped by adding an EZ Access device to a kiosk along with changes to software to allow for easier navigation,” Olea said.

Developed by the Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, EZ Access is a set of interface enhancements that can be implemented in the design of almost any electronic product to make it usable by people with disabilities.

“Hearing impairment can be aided by providing a headphone jack on the kiosk, allowing users to change the volume, or offering visual cues or messages along with audio tones and messages,” Olea said.

“For the visually-impaired, kiosks should have a screen that allows zoom access for inputs and response,” Bowers said. “Software should be designed to provide audio or tactile responses for the consumer’s confirmation.”

Section 508

Section 508 of the U.S. Government’s Rehabilitation Act has requirements for federal government kiosks, digital signage, websites and other IT systems to meet the needs of visually- and hearing-impaired people. “It requires government agencies to provide individuals with disabilities with access to electronic and information technology and data comparable to those who don’t have disabilities,” Bowers said.

Section 508’s requirements go beyond those specified in ADA, but Bowers said retail kiosk operators should strive to meet them.

“Section 508 is the ultimate standard for hearing- and visually-impaired people,” he said. “It is in the best interest of retailers, brand marketers and kiosk system integrators to embrace the intent of Section 508 in their retail deployments so they can support their total customer population.”


Ergonomics and thoughtful placement of peripherals can make a significant difference, according to Olea.

“I saw a kiosk that used an EZ Access device about waist level on a vertical panel,” he said. “This struck me as odd because the EZ Access device is typically used for vision-impaired individuals, yet on this kiosk it had been placed so low and not even facing upwards that it was nearly impossible for someone standing to use it. A vision-impaired person standing up might not even find the EZ Access device, let alone be able to hunch over and use it.”

On Olea’s Automated Passport Kiosk, an EZ Access device from Storm Interface was placed within ADA-compliant height and just to the right of the monitor. “This allows for easy use while standing, and is still low enough that, if someone in a wheelchair needed to use the kiosk, they could do so as well,” Olea said.


“On our first few projects where we considered ADA compliance, we would often design our entire interface, and then retro-fit it to be ADA-compliant,” said Nicholas Yee, product manager of Toronto, Canada-based wayfinding technology firm Jibestream. “This led to a lot of unnecessary work, as we often had to redesign core functions from the ground up in order to meet the compliance levels.”

“Once our team became comfortable with the ADA standards, we made an effort to design all of our interfaces to be ADA-compliant from the very start,” Yee said. “We learned that compliant design is good design, as things such as interface height, color contrast and interface size all make the interface easier for everyone using the kiosk.”

Yee gave the following advice:

  • Consider the height of interactive elements. “The first thing we consider when we design our interfaces is the height at which the interactive elements reside in the physical space. ADA requires that interface elements be placed between 15 inches and 48 inches from the ground. It’s important to know the physical height of the kiosk, so that the interface can be adjusted accordingly.”
  • Use high contrast colors. “ADA has multiple recommendations for various elements to ensure color contrast. It suggests either light on dark, or dark on light elements. Jibestream follows this requirement by keeping a contrast level of 70 percent between the background and foreground for all interface elements in our user interfaces.”
  • Size of text and interface elements. “Nobody wants to have to squint or lean in to read what’s on a kiosk, especially since not everyone using the kiosk will have 20/20 vision. If the user can’t easily select something in the interface, and instead has to ‘pixel hunt’ in order to press a button, this will often lead to them becoming very frustrated and walking away before completing their interaction with the kiosk.”
  • ADA requires the use of large text (3/16 inches). “When designing interface elements, we ensure that items are of sufficient size (55/64 inches x 55/64 inches at minimum) with adequate spacing (1/4 inches-1/2 inches) between each element.”
  • Limit physical barriers. “ADA has several complex restrictions concerning the barriers that surround the physical space around the kiosk. To keep things simple and accessible for everybody, it’s best to limit the number of physical barriers that prevent users from reaching and viewing the kiosk screen.”
Author: Staff Writer

Craig Keefner is the editor and author for Kiosk Association and kiosk industry. With over 30 years in the industry and experience in large and small kiosk solutions, Craig is widely considered to be an expert in the field. Major kiosk projects for him include Verizon Bill Pay kiosk and hundreds of others.