Atlas Vending collaborated with the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) to roll out a pilot program, equipping vending machines that are specially equipped with assistive features for the visually impaired. These machines are certified by the Malaysia Book of Records as the first Braille-enabled vending machines in Malaysia.
The vending machine includes Braille plates to help identify specific drinks, as well as motion sensor triggered audio instructions as you get closer to the machine. It also includes LED light features to help partially impaired people locate the right buttons—from ordering to performing payments.
The yellow button indicates that you would like to pay Cash, while the blue button indicates you’d rather pay with a cashless option. There are Braile plates to help the visually impaired find the right buttons and locations as well.
Braille plates are also placed in front of each drink option to indicate what the products are and how much they are. Once the user has chosen the drink of their choice, they can pick it up from the dispenser at the bottom.
“For us at Atlas Vending, we are extremely delighted that this collaboration has come into fruition after months of working with the team at MAB—from conceptualisation to prototype testing, and to the actual rollout. At each step, the feedback and suggestions from the MAB team were studied and incorporated to ensure that the final design of the machines would be truly convenient for visually-impaired customers. Details such as the spoken speed of the audio instructions and colours of the indicator lights were crucial guidance for us, helping the Atlas Vending technology team improve the physical design and software features,” said Amy Gan, Head of Marketing & Ancillary Business for Atlas Vending.
When I first heard about these Braille-enabled vending machines, I was a little skeptical. Are they genuinely there to make Malaysia a friendlier place to the visually impaired, or is this just a show-boaty way for a company to make money? Would the visually impaired find the vending machine helpful?
But as I looked into it, vending machines often already have Braille-enabled keypads. While it’s a step to accessibility for the visually impaired, how would they know which items correspond to the number they press without other people helping them out? With this in mind, I can see how these new vending machines would help greatly.
Atlas Vending and MAB are piloting 11 of these vending machines around some LRT stations, including around the Brickfields area. These locations were chosen as this is where MAB’s hub is, where the visually impaired would travel back and forth to for work and social purposes. The machines were also designed and tested with the help of MAB’s team to ensure that their features are “well-suited to the needs of visually impaired consumers”.
The LRT stations that have the vending machines are LRT Universiti, LRT Kerinchi, LRT Abdullah Hukum, LRT Masjid Jamek, LRT Bandaraya, LRT Sultan Ismail, LRT Plaza Rakyat, LRT PWTC, LRT Ampang, and LRT KL Sentral.
In Malaysia, the National Eye Survey that had been conducted in 2018 by the Ministry of Health found that the prevalence of low vision among the general population of Malaysia was 2.44% while the prevalence of blindness is 0.29% of the population. This means that as many as 800,000 Malaysians could be partially sighted, while close to 95,000 are blind.