Jan. 24, 2022 | by Elliot Maras — Editor, Kiosk Marketplace & Vending Times
Nobody questions the important role that McDonald’s, the world’s most visible foodservice provider, has played in expanding customer acceptance of self service.
What many people may not know is that providing convenience to everyone is one of its core values. Hence, McDonald’s has taken a lead role in equipping its restaurants with technology this past year that assists blind and vision challenged customers.
Introducing this capability was a two-and-a-half-year project involving staff, partners and customers.
Attendees at the Self-Service Innovation Summit last month got an inside look at this project during a “Lunch And Learn” session, titled, “Making Self-Service Easier for Guests With Vision Disabilities at McDonald’s.”
Kelsey Hall, senior product manager, global digital accessibility, McDonald’s, and Matt Ater, vice president of business development and software engineering at Vispero, a partner specializing in technology for blind and low vision individuals, demonstrated how McDonald’s digital accessibility works.
Besides the business case for making the kiosk accessible to all people, there is also a social responsibility, Hall said.
“We have an integrity core value, and an inclusion core value,” she said.
How it works
Hall and Ater began by presenting a video illustrating how a low vision individual uses the kiosk. The user activates an audio/video recording by plugging headphones into the kiosk. Ater, who is blind, noted that most blind people carry headphones for ATMs.
It is important that the kiosk tells the user how to use it, said Ater, since not all types of kiosks that users may be familiar with — i.e., a voting kiosk or a payment terminal — are the same.
“The instructions to give to the user are critical,” he said.
The kiosk’s keypad has arrow keys: one key allows the user to move to the next item on the screen, one moves to the previous item, one activates the current item selected and one moves to either the next section or the previous section.
After activating the menu, the recording reviews all menu items and corresponding prices, along with information on nutrition and allergens.
Once an item is selected, the recording asks if the user would like a side order and a drink. Items can be canceled as well as added.
Once the order is completed, the audio asks if the user would like to check out at the kiosk or at a counter. The kiosk only accepts credit card payment, while the counter accepts both cash and credit. The kiosk then provides a receipt and instructs the user to bring it to the counter to complete payment.
Next, the screen asks if the user wants to eat at the restaurant or take the order to go.
If the user wants to eat at the restaurant, the screen instructs them to grab a table locator and scan the QR code on the screen. The kiosk then instructs them to take the table locator number to the table.
The kiosk also has a “reach mode” that moves the digital screen lower for easier reach. There is also a magnification mode that enlarges the screen through a view port that can move around the screen.
The keypad, made by Storm, also offers volume and speed control.
“If you do this a few times, you probably don’t have to listen to the instructions the next time, so you can interrupt it just by pressing a key on the keypad,” Ater said.
The Storm audio navigation pad is not positioned flush against the kiosk, but is at an angle, Hall said. The company decided to position it this way after observing users. This creates more space for storing wires.
“We also found out that users who have physical disabilities really like using the ‘press’ button,” she said, which is an unintended benefit from positioning the keypad at an angle.
“A kiosk isn’t a website and it’s not an app…it kind of functions differently depending on what industry you’re in, so we also needed to create an experience that was right for our product,” Hall said.
The ability to adjust volume and speed on the screen reader was important since time is valuable, Ater said. It is not uncommon for people to increase the speed when listening to podcasts for the same reason.
The kiosk also has Braille labels at any point of actionable contact, such as the scan area, the headphone insert, the receipt area and the payment pad.
The technology also allows the company to track keypad use versus a swipe (touch use), versus a combination of the two, Ater said.
A work in progress
Asked about the possibility of offering voice recognition, Hall said voice recognition cannot replace the current solution.
“You could have voice recognition, and, or voice control, but you can’t expect a blind person to walk up to a kiosk and just talk at it without knowing what’s on the other side,” she said. “The screen reader is necessary always, but the voice part of it is an opportunity that could some day come in the future.”
“Voice recognition has come a long way and a lot of it also depends on being on the Internet for really good processing, because the processing power you’re going to get from Microsoft, Amazon and Google is way beyond what you’re going to get on a PC itself,” Ater said. “And so even if you have voice recognition options there are some limitations based on connectivity.”