Advocacy Update

As some of you know, I am involved in a series of ATM accessibility lawsuits here in Akron, Ohio. Ever since I lost my eyesight in September of 2004, I’ve had a desire to be able to continue to do my banking as I did when I could still see. Sadly in June of 2013 there are still lots of ATM’s out there that are not accessible to blind users, even though the Americans with Disabilities Act states that ATM’s have to be usable by the blind where ever they choose to do their banking. This law, and the specific regulations pertaining to ATM machines, went in to effect in March of 2012, thirteen months ago.
I have been working with the Blind Ambitions, an organization committed to challenging banks to make their ATM’s accessible to the blind across the entire country. I have consulted with Blind Ambitions about my inability to use many bank machines in the Akron, Ohio area due to the machines either not being accessible at all or certain aspects of the machines operations not being accessible to me. Consequently, I have filed a number of lawsuits in order to make sure that the banks in question make their entire networks of ATM’s accessible to blind users in their communities.
I can’t go in to specifics in this blog post but I can say that some of the banks I’ve dealt with have been more caring about their machines being accessible than others.
As a sighted user of ATM’s before late 2004, I commonly used ATM’s to do my banking all the time and I desire and demand to have that opportunity today as a blind user of these machines without any assistance from a sighted person. This is why I am currently challenging my local banks to make their ATM’s completely accessible to not only the blind but all disabled people that desire to use their machines with all the freedom that sighted users enjoy.
I have been an accessibility advocate for several years now. Since January of 2006, I’ve been doing various things to help blind people to lead more independent lives. One of the ways I’ve done this is to produce hundreds of free podcasts demonstrating programs and devices of great interest to the blind community. In November of 2006, I created the Blind Geek Zone website in order to have a place to allow blind users all around the world to download these files as well as a place to go to find other useful information. In June of 2006, I became a volunteer accessibility trainer at my local blind center for more than a year. Today I am a board member at the center and I still continue to give my volunteer assistance to the center. In 2009 I joined a local chapter of the American Council of the Blind in order to further help to advocate for blind people around the country. Over the past 7 years, I’ve spoken up many times for people in the blindness community. When Freedom Scientific sued two of it’s competitors I blogged about the potential negative impact that this would have on the community. When Amazon refused to make their Kindle book reader accessible, I was one of the people that contacted Amazon and expressed my concerns. When other companies made applications that became inaccessible to blind users, I have contacted them to voice my concerns.
In the future I will continue to advocate for the blind community. These ATM lawsuits are just one phase of my continued efforts to help others and myself be able to lead productive and independent lives with as little assistance as possible. Too often the blind are left out and not able to use devices or programs. ATM’s are just one thing that is currently being focused on. Hopefully efforts by all of us in the community will make inaccessible ATM’s and other devices a thing of the past in the near future.