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The Built Environment of Public Access Terminals (PAT)

What are PAT?

PAT include, but are not limited to:

  • ATM (Automated Teller Machines)
  • Information kiosks
  • Ticket vending machines
  • Information displays (eg. flight information)
  • Point of sale customer card payment systems
  • Card door entry systems
  • Interactive kiosks
  • Information transaction machines

In order to use a PAT, the built environment around it must be accessible. A large group of people, not just people with disabilities or older people - children, tall and short people, people with prams, travellers carrying heavy luggage - can all encounter barriers and obstacles in the built environment.

Guidelines for making the built environment accessible have been developed in many countries. Experience has shown that in practice requirements for accessibility must include exact, quantitative dimensions. However, they differ from country to country depending on culture and tradition. Therefore, national guidelines must be consulted in order to get exact answers on measurements. However, there is a core of principles and guidelines that can be refered to, as regards the installation of PAT.

Problems encountered by disabled people and the ageing population with the built environment of Public Access Terminals (PAT)

Visually impaired

In places such as shopping centres, car parks, railway and bus stations, locating a PAT can be difficult. It may even prove to be impossible if there are barriers in the way, ie. steps, posts or signage.

Problems seeing the screen can be caused by insufficient light levels or too much glare from the sun.

Queuing systems with no audible output can also cause problems.

Hearing impaired

People who are deaf or hard of hearing may have problems perceiving information that is presented audibly if the PAT has been placed in a noisy environment. Conversely, in a quiet environment such as a library, the sound may be turned down or the loudspeakers could be disconnected.

Physically impaired

People who have a permanent or temporary condition which restricts their mobility may need to use a wheelchair, a motorised buggy or crutches to move around. If there are barriers in the way to the PAT, ie. steps, posts or signage, it may be difficult or even impossible for them to get to it. Once there, they may find that there is not enough space for them to manoeuvre so easily.

An uneven surface would also cause problems.

Cognitively impaired

People with cognitive or learning impairments may experience problems with queuing systems.

Ageing population

The elderly may rarely use PAT and therefore find them intimidating, simply because they are not familiar with them. This feeling may be exaserbated by the fact that security was not considered prior to the positioning of the PAT.

Insufficient lighting levels or too much glare from the sun will not help the elderly in seeing the screen as they often need to read very close to the screen.

Lack of queuing arrangements may cause the elderly some problems.

Checklist for the Built Environment of Public Access Terminals (PAT)


Location site

The following factors should be considered:

If feasible, PAT should be protected from the weather. Direct or reflected sunlight or other bright lighting should be prevented from striking the display of the terminal, causing glare and lowering the contrast of the screen. In addition, defective or damaged local lighting can mean that users cannot see the interface clearly or with any sense of security.

If a PAT is located inside, entrances and lobbies should be easy to negotiate and well lit.

Ideally, street furniture such as lampposts, signposts and litter bins should be outside the line of the access route. The access route should also be free from stairs, thresholds, narrow passages and heavy doors. This will assist wheelchair access and facilitate the queuing of users so that more privacy can be obtained. If this is not possible, warnings should be provided by using contrasting luminance and colour with the background against which they will be seen.

The surface of the floor space should be stable, firm and non-slip.

People with hearing disabilities require a good acoustic environment to enable communication. Also, PAT requiring speech input or output, or PAT where speech input or output could be advantageous to certain user groups (eg. visually impaired), should not be located in a noisy environment or where disturbing sounds are frequent.

The location of a PAT affects how safe it is to use. Some people are more vulnerable than others to attack. A location near a safe space in a corner allows those with impaired hearing to be aware of people approaching from the side. However, a PAT that is too close to a corner can create difficulties for wheelchair users, who need space at the side to approach the PAT and turn when leaving.

Location signs and visual indications

The following factors should be considered:

Public information signs should conform to "ISO 7010:2003 Graphical symbols - Safety colours and safety signs - Safety signs used in workplaces and public areas".

Signs showing the location of a PAT should conform to "BS 8300:2001 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people - Code of Practice", Sections 9.2.2 Location and design of signs and information and 9.2.3 Visual signs.

Directional signs that are easy to spot facilitate people with speech impairments, immigrants and other people who may have difficulties making inquiries about the location of the PAT.

Graphical symbols are an essential aid for people with learning difficulties and for people unfamiliar with the surroundings.

Icons and standard wording help people with dyslexia.

Pictograms, icons and symbols should conform to "EN 1332-1 Identification card systems. Man-machine interface. Design principles for the user interface".

Colour should be used as a complement to textual information. Signs that contrast with their background, have simple symbols and where the size of the letters are related to the reading distance, should be used. Where possible, signs should have braille too.

For night-time and overcast days, the sign should be illuminated internally. Subject to any planning restrictions, signs should be located above the PAT. Ideally, there should be signs that face forward and can be seen from the front (for example, from across the road) and signs that can be seen from the side (for example, from along the street).

In order to help people find their way to a PAT, signage should be located at decision-making locations (exterior and/or interior) and, where applicable, should include the appropriate standardised symbols.

All signs should be consistently placed and of uniform design so as to be readily seen.

For further information on location signs and visual indications please click on the following link: Location signs and visual indications.

Alternative methods for locating PATs

Differing structure and colour of the pavement of the pedestrian path leading to the PAT make it easier for people with visual impairments to find the PAT.

The use of technology would greatly assist people with visual impairments in locating a PAT. For example, voice messages or audible direction instructions transmitted to a hand-held device, such that selected audible route guidance could be provided to lead users to the PAT from their current location.

Access routes can be graphically displayed on hand-held device screens with the PAT vicinity, upon request. Ideally, the user's location on the route should be indicated as well as the nearest "accessible" route to the PAT from the user's current location.

For further information on alternative methods for locating PAT please click on the following link: Alternative methods for locating PAT.


In general, lighting should be designed to provide safe mobility through the provision of good visibility in all ambient lighting condition. There should be a consistent pattern and level of light in the absence of natual light. Lighting should avoid misleading shadows and highlight obstacles such as stairs, curbs and ramps in the PAT vicinity and close to the access route. Care should be taken to ensure that a PAT does not face into direct sunlight as this can cause direct reflected screen glare or strong shadows which can make the device unusable.

Good lighting means:

  • no glare
  • flicker free light
  • sufficient intensity of light
  • sufficient contrast
  • appropriate direction and distribution of the light
  • appropriate colour of the light
  • no emission of heat or UV radiation

These factors are particularly important for people with visual impairments, including older people. They often need to read very close to the text.

For further information on lighting please click on the following link: Lighting requirements.

Accessible route

The following factors should be considered when designing the area immediately in front of a PAT (user operating space):

Space in front of PAT
There should be sufficient space to allow wheelchair users in particular to approach a PAT from the front, side or at an angle and for users to perform any interactive tasks at the PAT without being cramped or forced to adopt stressful postures.

In order to provide a reasonable level of security an area should be provided at the PAT where the user has control of valuables.

Privacy of information on the screen should be considered.

There should be sufficient space for users to easily manoeuvre themselves away from the PAT after use.

There should be sufficient space to accommodate all of the above outside of any circulation or passage space for general movement of people (eg. pathways, pavements etc).

The user operating area should be separate from any queuing area.

For detailed information on accessible route please click on the following link: Accessible route to the PAT.

Queuing areas
Where queuing areas are provided, they should be distinguishable (for example, by a variation in the colour and/or texture of the flooring or pavement).

They should not form part of or encroach upon the user operating space in front of the terminal.

Queuing areas should be designed and located so that privacy at the user operating area is not compromised.

Doors should be easy to open and close by a seated wheelchair user and not require any great strength to operate, ideally they should be of a sliding automatic type. Non-automatic power assisted doors should be operated from eg. a treadle or large touch/kick panel or button that requires little force, to make access possible for people with little strength and for people who cannot use their arms and hands.

Doors having large panes of glass must be provided with colour marking enabling visually impaired people to perceive them.

Any card-swiping lock facility points when located at entrances can be orientated vertically or horizontally facing the operator. Vertically orientated slots are preferred.

For detailed information on entrances please click on the following link: Entrances.


  • AS 1428.1:1992 Design of Access and Mobility - Part 1, General Requirements for Access - Buildings
  • AS 1428.2:1992 Design of Access and Mobility - Part 2, Enhanced and Additional Requirements - Buildings and Facilities
  • AS 1428.4:1992 Design of Access and Mobility - Part 4, Tactile ground surface indicators for the orientation of people with vision impairment
  • AS 3769:1990 Automatic teller machines: User access
  • BS 8300:2009 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people - Code of Practice
  • CAN/CSA-B651.1-01 Barrier-Free Design for Automated Banking Machines
  • CAN/CSA-B651.2-07 Accessible Design for Self-Service Interactive Devices
  • CEN/TS 15291:2006 Identification card system - Guidance on design for accessible card-activated devices
  • EN 1332-1 Identification card systems. Man-machine interface. Design principles for the user interface
  • ISO 7010:2003 Graphical symbols - Safety colours and safety signs - Safety signs used in workplaces and public areas

Further information


The information contained in this section was taken from the following sources:


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