eNation: Supermarkets fail disabled people this Christmas

Shopping online for those Christmas dinner essentials is needlessly difficult for disabled people, concludes a new 'State of the enation' report by AbilityNet. 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).

state of the eNation reportsOf 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. 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:

“The 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.”

Morrisons doesn't offer online shoppingPerhaps 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. Robin 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.”

Download and read the eNation report in full now

Comments from disabled people conducting the tests include:

Tesco website

"I couldn't see the 'Skip to content' link on the Tesco site and for the tabbing you have to have good eyesight to spot, some are just a slight colour change but at least it is some indication which is more than most!"

Blind screen reader user

Tesco App

"I had trouble finding them. I didn’t realise that the crackers would be under the category 'Groceries' but overall very fast and efficient and precise."

Magnification user

Sainsbury’s website

“This site was difficult to use with misleading buttons such as 'Disabled save trolley', 'Disabled empty trolley' all of which are in fact active. There were also some unlabelled images such as 'icons/grid_British-Flag_v1_m56577569834232415'. Despite these difficulties I was able to complete the tasks with some effort.”

Blind screen reader user

Sainsbury’s app

“I found this app completely unusable as the mobile version of the site it accesses is full of incomprehensible links such as 'Deeplink.js' and you are unable to do anything.”

Blind screen reader user

Asda website

"Did not complete checkout process as found too time-consuming and frustrating. Also there is no accessibility page."

Blind screen reader user

Asda App

“Really confusing. I wasn't able to view the contents of my trolley and couldn't choose a timeslot for delivery (all grid cell items appear blank) and I gave up. Aaaagh!”

Blind screen reader user

Morrisons website

"What a very inaccessible site - I couldn't find anything I was looking for"

Magnification user

“I found it frustrating not being able to easily search for information on items. Get a search engine."

Dyslexic shopper

Ocado website

"When I was looking for the Christmas pudding and I clicked onto the heading browse shop that's when the problem occurred that if I moved my mouse off the icon the information would disappear and I would have to start the whole process again. I found this irritating."

Magnification user

"I added my items to the trolley and then had to register and afterwards my trolley was empty and it was a bit annoying that after registering I had to do it all over again."

Dyslexic shopper

Download and read the eNation report in full now

Disability statistics

In the UK an estimated 2 million people have a vision impairment, some 1.5 million have cognitive difficulties and a further 3.4 million have a disability which prevents them using the standard keyboard, screen and mouse set-up with ease. In addition, an estimated 6 million are dyslexic and many millions experience literacy difficulties, not to mention the increasing number of elderly ‘silver surfers’ with failing eyesight or arthritis.

About State of the eNation reports

AbilityNet is at the forefront of a number of initiatives both at home and abroad to improve website accessibility for disabled people and provide both private and public sector organisations with the expertise they need to ensure that their websites, apps and other digital content are meeting guideline levels of compliance (such as those recommended by the W3C/WAI). For more information on website accessibility, usability and design, contact AbilityNet on 0800 269545.

Download and read the eNation report in full now

Issued by the AbilityNet Press Office - for press contacts please call 01926 429595