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Retailers offer stress and frustration to disabled online shoppers

Retailers offer stress and frustration to disabled online shoppers
19th December 2013 developer

Only one supermarket website provides even the most basic level of accessibility necessary for disabled shoppers looking to buy their Christmas essentials online, according to tests of leading food retailers by a disability charity.

Accessibility experts from AbilityNet found that the websites and mobile phone applications used by the top five online food retailers were “needlessly difficult” for disabled people to use.

Only one of the five offered the base-level access requirements – three stars out of five, roughly approximating to the legal requirements of the Equality Act – that are needed for stress-free shopping.

The sites and apps were tested using some of the most common access technologies, such as magnification software and screen readers, and whether or not they could be accessed using a keyboard instead of a mouse. 

On some of the sites, disabled users took over an hour to make their purchases, and on others they were unable to complete the checkout process. 

The charity concluded that many disabled people would struggle to complete their shopping online if they wanted to have their Christmas groceries delivered.

AbilityNet carried out technical checks on the websites, and also asked disabled users with a range of impairments to check out both the sites and apps for themselves.

They were asked to put three Christmas items – a turkey, a Christmas pudding and a box of crackers – into their online shopping trolley, using both the website and the mobile app, for each of five retailers.

None of the five websites scored over 50 per cent on the technical checks.

Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet’s head of digital inclusion, said: “The law is clear on this issue. It is just as illegal to bar disabled visitors from accessing your goods and services online as it would be to keep them out of your building in the real world.

“Whilst no company would do this knowingly, as this report shows there are plenty of high-profile companies that are contravening legal requirements by not considering their disabled customers.”

Only Tesco achieved a basic level of accessibility, hitting the minimum three stars out of five for its website, and three-and-a-half stars out of five for its mobile app.

Ocado scored two-and-a-half stars for its website, although it did achieve four stars for its mobile app.

Both Asda and Sainsbury’s scored just two-and-a-half stars for their websites and two stars for their mobile apps.

And Morrisons – the worst performer of the five – scored only two stars for its website, while it does not even offer online shopping and so has no mobile app.

One user of a magnification aid said of the Morrisons website: “What a very inaccessible site – I couldn’t find anything I was looking for.”

The Sainsbury’s site was described as “difficult to use with misleading buttons”, while Asda’s was criticised by a blind screenreader-user for being “time-consuming and frustrating”.

An Asda spokeswoman said they were “surprised” by the report as they had been “carrying out a lot of work in this area” and had made “great strides”.

She said: “We’ve asked for the full report and methodology to help us get a better understanding of the issues AbilityNet says it has uncovered.”

She added: “We’ve made fantastic progress over the last couple of months and will continue to make improvements to the way our sites and apps work throughout 2014, so that the site is easier to use for everyone.” 

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We are sorry that these customers couldn’t shop as easily as we would have liked them to.

“We are continually making improvements to our website and app, and are in the process of rolling out a new website which addresses many of the points they have raised.  

“We are the only supermarket to offer a telephone ordering service for customers to do their weekly shop and this is popular with customers who have disabilities.”

Tesco, Ocado and Morrisons have so far failed to comment.

19 December 2013

News provided by John Pring at