The Talking ATM: Innovation, Access and Human Rights Activism, 1984-2016
The first accessible or “talking” ATM in the world was installed October 22, 1997 at a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch in Ottawa, Ontario. This was a typical machine that was retrofitted with an audio interface designed by an Ottawa company called T-Base Communications. Entrepreneur and blind-consumer activist Sharlyn Ayotte founded T-Base and worked alongside the RBC, as well as users, to ensure the design was practical. A more transparent and accessible financial sector in Canada, of which the talking ATM was just one part, was the result of over a decade of activism by people like Chris Stark and Marie Laporte-Stark. Now the talking ATM and the move toward accessible banking is recognized as a milestone in human rights in Canada.
Image description: Image of a user with his guide dog operating the first RBC “talking” ATM in 1997, embedded within the text. On the other side are images of Sharlyn Ayotte holding a red kerchief that reads “#iamyourcustomer, One Voice, More Choice”, as well as Chris and Marie Stark with their guide dogs, situated underneath an image of a contemporary accessible ATM, located at the Royal Bank of Canada branch at the corner Bank and Queen where the first talking ATM was initially installed.