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Lord! May the person standing before me be an angel?

(The post is written by Suki whom I met in Tempe last year. At present, She is pursuing Masters in Arizona State University)

These days, when people urgently need cash and other simple banking services, they can access ATMs available in many places without being concerned about the service and the location. For the same reason, I wanted to use an ATM instead of walking into a bank. I intend to make the most of ATM, in particular because paper work in the bank is extremely bothersome to me who am visually disabled. However, in spite of the benefits ATMs may grant, accessing the machine is close to a thrilling and risk-taking adventure.

Suppose that I am standing in front of an ATM to withdraw some cash. The first thing I have to do is to become observant to people standing in a line ahead me, and then I zero in on the most friendly-looking person, so-to-speak, “the one who may live even without laws.” Then, I start to say, “Excuse me, I am sorry to bother. I am visually disabled, so if you can help me withdraw some money from this ATM, I will be really appreciative.” Although I sense his or her willingness, I, getting to be nerve-wracking, am forced to experience thrill and tension for about one or two minutes. For the short moment, the feeling of distrust overpowers me, saying, “Can I trust him? What if this person turned into a robber?”Then, I pray, “Lord, please this man may be an angel.” After every process is completed, when I receive the withdrawn cash with my debit card, eventually the thrill and tense ebbs away.

Some may say that I am oversensitive to a trivial situation, and others may say, “Why don’t you trust people?” It is too disturbing to the harsh reality that I have to ask somebody a favor, whenever using an ATM, and that, reluctantly, but unavoidably, I am forced to share my private profile with many unspecified persons. It may be safe to say that most of the visually disabled feel the same way to me.

I have been to the US to study English once. At that time, I expected to be accessible to ATMs in the US without difficulty. However, when I went to the USA, the reality was different from my expectation. Since many ATMs were Braille-labeled. Most American thought that the visually impaired could use the ATM. It is unbelievable that people take it for granted that they can use the ATM due to the mere fact that it is Braille-labeled. Just imagine how I can use the ATM in the situation where I have no idea of what happens when I press a certain button.

Once I talked to an American friend who is visually disabled, he said,
“You know what? That’s just an accessory which makes people feel good. Braille on ATMs looks good. And people think ‘we appreciate the disabled, we don’t exclude them.’ That’s it.”

What about ATMs in Korea? Most ATMs in Korea are more advanced than those in the USA. Those in Korea have Touch screen and TTS (Text To Speech) as essential functions. When a message pops up on the screen, the machine reads the message. Even without Braille on ATMs, TTS can be attracting to visually disabled people. However, the function of touch screen diminishes the advantages that TTS has. The buttons, as in the computer keyboard or calculator, is cubical; therefore, it is taken for granted that the visually disabled can use them after memorizing the functions of each button.

Comparing to this, Touch Screen is depended on a visual image on the screen, so it is impossible to access to information with the tactual sense. Barely seeing objects, I have accessed the Touch Screen a few times; however, I uncovered an unexpected drawback. The Touch Screen was too sensitive to me who had to take a close look at it when accessing it. Often time, I could not use it as my intent because sometimes my breath or other times my hairs touched the screen. This proves that both the ATMs in the USA and Korea are not conveniently accessible to the visually disabled.

Then, what can be a practical solution? The solution is unexpectedly simple. Some readers who have been attentive to this essay may guess the solution that I am about to reveal. The solution is to manufacture the ATMs having both brailed keypad and TTS.

This does not require highly advanced technology and a large amount of budget. The problem can be solved more easily with the ATMs in Korea where the Touch Screen and key pad are already installed.

Regardless of an issue at stake, to solve the issue, the opinion and desire of the disabled should be reflected because they are in front to face the problem. If this is the case to practice, it will be never happening that Brailed keypad will exist as a useless accessory. I wish the day would come soon when I do not have to pray, “Lord, may the person standing before me be an angel.


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Anonymous said…
i am really moved by this post. often, solutions can be found at little cost and all it needs is human ingenuity and effort. till then and always i am sure your guardian angel will be beside you.

with best wishes,

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