Talking ATM History: Steven Mendelsohn and Citibank Talking ATMs
Structured Negotiations depends on the commitment, effort and creativity of many individuals, including members of the disability community who serve as Claimants. This post, about the history of Citibank Talking ATMs, includes an excerpt from a longer profile of disability activist and attorney Steven (”Steve”) Mendelsohn that appeared in the Equity e-Newsletter published by WID. Steve was instrumental in advocacy efforts for Talking ATMs and was one of the Claimants in the Structured Negotiations with Citibank that resulted in that bank’s agreement in 1999 to install accessible ATMs.
This post is one in a series about the history of Talking ATMs in the United States and worldwide.
- Jump to excerpt from WID Equity e-Newsletter
- Jump to information about Citibank Talking ATM history
- Read a short summary of all posts in the Talking ATM history series in the Talking ATM History category on this website.
- Read the full profile of Steve Mendelsohn in the Equity e-Newsletter
- Simplified Summary of this Document
Steven Mendelsohn: A Man Behind The Scenes, reprinted from Equity e-Newsletter
“Have you been to your local talking ATM machine lately to withdraw cash independently? We have Steve Mendelsohn to thank for this opportunity as well. He observed that the Americans with Disabilities Act specifically stated that people with disabilities, people with visual impairments as well as people using wheelchairs, were entitled to access automatic teller machines. But every time he went to a machine, it had Braille symbols, he couldn’t use it: didn’t know when the screen was waiting for him to input something; couldn’t tell how or where to confirm what he had entered. Oh sure, on a few older machines he learned to push the third button from the bottom to get $40. But by the time he learned this, the machine was replaced with a newer model.
In the mid 1990’s Steve approached his law school classmate Barry Goldstein, a partner in a leading Oakland California-based civil rights law firm. Mr. Goldstein heard what Steve was saying about the guarantee that ATM’s should be accessible. And the rest, as they say, is history. Goldstein’s law partner Linda Dardarian and civil rights attorney lawyer Lainey Feingold have turned the early ATM advocacy effort into the recognized process known as “structured negotiations.” As of today Feingold reports that tens of thousands of ATM machines are accessible to people with disabilities throughout the country, but you seldom hear the name of the man who got the process started.”
Citibank Talking ATMs
When Steve Mendelsohn approached the Goldstein, Demchak law firm about Talking ATMs, one of the banks whose ATMs had been inaccessible to him was Citibank. After several years of meetings through the Structured Negotiations process, on November 9, 1999, the California Council of the Blind announced that Citibank had installed five Talking ATMs in California. Read the CCB Citibank Press Release.
The announcement was the result of an agreement between Citibank, CCB, and individual CCB members, including Steve who, as described in the WID profile, spearheaded early Talking ATM legal efforts. Read the first Citibank Talking ATM Agreement. Eighteen months later, Citibank announced that it had installed the first Talking ATMs in New York. Read Citibank’s New York Talking ATM press release. The bank also signed a second, national agreement with the blind community committing to the installation of Talking ATMs around the country. Read the second Citibank Talking ATM agreement.
The early Citibank Talking ATMs were touchscreen only, with unique tactile input devices along the bottom of the screen. Steve Mendelsohn and other CCB members tested and provided significant feedback to Citibank about touchscreen access, visiting machines in California and New York, and visiting the bank’s ATM lab in Southern California on several different occasions. Citibank eventually abandoned the touchscreen-only interface, and today all Citibank Talking ATMs have tactile keypads.