Apple Pay a boon to people with disabilities

Excellent usabilty can lead to excellent accessibility

Peter Abrahams

Written By:
Published: 23rd July, 2015
Content Copyright © 2015 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Apple Pay has arrived in the UK and it will be a boon to many people with disabilities.

It is a wonderful example of how great usability design can provide great accessibility almost as a by-product.

Apple Pay competes with the existing contactless payment cards. It competes by providing an even better user experience and excellent security.

This meant that during the design and development process the mantra had to be usability, usability, usability. During that process looking at the usability needs of people with disabilities would have helped hone the usability for everyone. Accessibility was then a by-product of the whole process.

So let us look at what makes Apple Pay so easy to use.

You Register a card through the Passbook application, which is an integral part of iOS, you do not need to download or install any new software. To register a card you open Passbook, click on add card, and follow the instructions, which includes pointing the camera at your card which automatically picks up your name, the card number and expiry date. The card company will then send a confirmation code. Very straightforward, the only slight glitch I had was a delay before my bank sent the confirmation; it was not really a problem and perfectly understandable but it would have been nice to have been told that there might be a delay. It made me realise that a problem with great usability is it makes you impatient when things do not happen instantly!!

Making a payment really is simplicity itself. Hold the phone near the contactless payment reader whilst touching the fingerprint reader on the phone. Wait a second for a slight vibration, a ping and a 'done' message on the screen and the payment is complete.

Once the payment is complete the card company will send a notification of the payment to your iPhone showing when, who and how much you paid. Useful to verify that you have paid the correct amount but essential to people with vision impairments who may find it difficult to see the amount displayed on the payment reader. This will also stop anyone trying to make a payment from another iPhone.

There is an alternative method that can be used on the iPhone instead of having to touch the fingerprint reader when you are holding the iPhone near the payment reader. Go into Passbook, touch the fingerprint reader, and a message will appear saying 'Hold near reader to pay', you then have a minute to complete the transaction without touching the fingerprint reader again. This was designed for environments where you need to spend the minimum amount of time at the payment reader, for example when passing through a gate at a London Transport Underground station. This method should be a boon for people with limited dexterity who may find it difficult to touch the fingerprint reader at the same time as holding the device near the payment reader.

If you have an Apple Watch payments are even simpler; just double click the button on the watch and then hold the watch near the reader, vibrate, ping, message, payment complete.

Compared to contactless cards Apple Pay is easier to use because you do not have to find your card nor do you ever have to enter your PIN. At the same time it is more secure because every payment is verified by your fingerprint, no one sees the card, and each transaction has a unique token so no card information is transferred.

Besides contactless payments Apple Pay also provides a new in-App payment option. For example if you use the Apple Store App there is an Apple Pay button and all you have to do is touch the fingerprint reader to complete the payment. No need to log-in to an account or to input card details and delivery address.

Apple Pay provides an improved user experience for all users but especially users with disabilities because:

  • People with vision impairments can use VoiceOver to set up the card and to hear the payment notifications.
  • People in wheelchairs may find it difficult to reach and see the pin pad and this is not an issue with Apple pay
  • People with limited hand mobility find it difficult to key in the pin and sometimes have to ask someone else to key it in for them which is a major security breach.
  • People who find it difficult to remember PIN codes either through learning difficulties or mild dementia can use it securely for small payments.

All in all Apple Pay provides yet another reason for anyone with a disability to have an iPhone.

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