Friday, June 29, 2007

The Straight Dope

In a conversation with a friend yesterday, I discovered that he didn't even know about The Straight Dope, by Cecil Adams. I thought everybody knew about The Straight Dope! Just in case one of my readers (mom?) doesn't know about it, here's an introduction from today's edition of the emailed version (it's also a web site and a series of books)...

Did you ever wonder why the buttons on the drive-up ATM machines have Braille bumps on them? One of Cecil's readers did, and here's the beginning of The Straight Dope's answer:

Congratulations, Vox, you are the one millionth person to ask this question! Please send us your address so we can burn down your house.

Hey, just kidding! Although if you ask ever why we park on the driveway and drive on the parkway, you won't get lucky twice.

Anyway, you asked a question, and by God you are going to get an answer. Drive-up ATM buttons are marked with braille because federal regulations require it. To be specific, section 4.34.4 of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (Appendix to Part 1191, 36 CFR Chapter XI, issued pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) says, "Instructions and all information for use [of an automated teller machine] shall be made accessible to and independently usable by persons with vision impairments." Drive-up ATMs, unlike the walk-up variety, don't need to be wheelchair accessible, but the rules make no exception regarding accessibility by the blind.

And he goes on from here (the full answer is not quite as ridiculous as it sounds at first blush).

The subtitle of The Straight Dope web site and books is "Fighting Ignorance Since 1973 (it's taking longer than we thought)". The answers are both informative and entertaining; I look forward to reading every email I get from them. You can subscribe (it's free!) at the home page.

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