100 Words On: The Real Reason Why Drive-Up ATMs Have Braille Keypads

One of life’s greatest so-called mysteries is why American drive-up automated teller machine keypads have Braille on them. On the surface it seems to be a preposterous notion. After all, the logic goes, blind people can’t drive; but who says only a car’s driver can use the ATM? Passengers can easily operate ATMs from the back seat too — and with the aid of head phones, the blind can enjoy drive-up banking in complete privacy. That’s why federal law rightly mandates Braille on drive-up ATMs.

The bottom line: Before boldly dismissing any notion as folly, you might want to evaluate it from multiple perspectives.

Photo Credit: orionpozo


  1. 1


    What I want to know is the reason American ATMs are designed for a Ford 250 instead of a regular sedan. I have to either get out of my car completely or look like a dog hanging out the window to use one.

    • 2


      @Wojo — I have that same problem: 1 short South Asian girl (me) + 1 tiny sedan car = consistently unable to reach the keypad. I have to either pull my car so close to the keypad that I risk deflating a tire on the curb, or else I have to simply get out of my car, inspiring laughter and mockery from all who watch me.

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      So are PIN numbers. I think it’s due to an affliction known as “RAS syndrome” which, somewhat ironically, literally means “redundant acronym syndrome syndrome.”

  2. 7

    Sabz says

    Citi Bank had a keypad that could be moved up or down depending on the size of the vehicle. My friend had a truck so he always moved it up to reach it. I hope they still have those. It would be handy for you two, Wojo & Paula.

  3. 10

    snoopyloopy says

    I can’t believe no one has seen (or if they have, they’ve been silent) the most obvious reason yet: manufacturing efficiency. I’m pretty sure it’s much easier for a company to crank out one set of keypads than it is to produce two. They leave it up to the buyer to decide if the ATM will be in the mall lobby, the bank lobby, or a driveway behind the bank.

    • 11

      Len Penzo says

      Yes, I’ve heard that argument too. However, that was clearly not the motive because the banking industry fought against having Braille on drive-up ATMs.

  4. 12

    Ben says

    Len-you’re a hoot! I get an emormous kick & satisfaction, not to mention amusement reading your blog. Your out of the box sense of humor entertains me to no end. Thanks!

  5. 14

    Samiam says

    On a similar note, I have always wondered why Elevators in parking ramps have Braille and audible indicators for the blind.

  6. 17


    As one of your blind subscribers, I found this post especially insightful. Now, if only we could get computer developers to use half your common sense to think ahead this way, we’d have more jobs to help more of my blind brethren become tax payers rather than tax burdens. Keep up the good work! Oh, and by the way, since we’re on a blind note, thanks for not using those stupid CAPTCHA things that make it unnecessarily difficult to leave comments.

    • 18

      Len Penzo says

      Thanks, Joe. Sorry for the CAPTCHA, but if I didn’t use it, I would be inundated with spam. Even with the CAPTCHA tool, I have been hit with more than 1 million spam comments over almost six years of blogging. (Yes, more than 1 million. If it wasn’t for the Akismet spam filter, I would have had to disable the comments section entirely.)

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