Online food retailers fail disabled people this Christmas

Shopping online for those Christmas dinner essentials is needlessly difficult for disabled people, concludes a new review by e-Accessibility charity, AbilityNet.

Image: iStock/Helder Almeida

Image: iStock/Helder Almeida

Testers with a range of conditions from blindness and low vision to learning difficulties, shopped for a turkey, a Christmas pudding and a dozen crackers at the five top online food retailers using both website and mobile apps (where available).

Of the five websites sampled – Sainsburys, Morrisons, Asda, Tesco and Ocado – only one met the base-level of access requirements needed for stress-free shopping, with disabled users on some sites taking over an hour to make their purchases and on others unable to complete the checkout process altogether.

The apps fared a little better, with two achieving minimum requirements – which still means that much frustration will be experienced by many users on their mobile devices this Christmas.

Sites and apps were tested with the most commonly encountered access technologies (such as magnification software and screen readers) and whether or not they could be accessed using the keyboard instead of the mouse. Of the top five supermarket sites, only Tesco’s met the needs of visitors with a visual impairment, physical difficulties or dyslexia, and attained three stars on the five star scale.

Ocado performed best out of all the mobile apps tested, achieving a four star ranking with Tesco’s app a close second with another three star rating.

Explains Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet’s Head of Digital Inclusion: “Both websites and mobile apps were a challenge to our testers. Three stars suggests that the site or app satisfies many of the technical and legal requirements (Equality Act 2010) that enable disabled visitors to undertake the tasks set, albeit with some difficulties along the way.

“A score of less than three stars means that many customers will fail to fill their basket let alone successfully complete the purchase and confirm a time for delivery. That only one website met this criteria promises little online festive cheer for our testers this Christmas.

Latest figures show that a tipping point has been reached in online retail with all growth going forward resulting from sales via mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). This trend makes the accessibility of apps to disabled users a strategically even more important factor looking ahead.”

What was most disappointing however was the fact that Morrisons, unlike its rivals, does not sell online at all – a huge drawback for disabled customers for whom home delivery or at least an in-store collection service is of enormous benefit.

Christopherson adds: “Retailers who ignore the needs of disabled people risk missing out on a market which represents a spending power of some £120 billion every year (the so called ‘purple pound’).

“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.”

To read the full report visit www.abilitynet.org.uk.

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