Accessibility is key for retailers who want to create a truly inclusive customer experience.
By opening up your stores to customers with disabilities, you’re not only doing the right thing and creating a great customer experience–you’re expanding your customer base.
Keep reading to learn how leading retailers from Selfridges to Tesco are pushing accessibility in customer services with new groundbreaking initiatives.
What is retail accessibility?
Accessibility is the quality of being able to reach or obtain something–whether that’s a building, website, or a different environment. As such, retail accessibility (or service accessibility) refers to how easy (or difficult) your customers find it to reach your online or brick-and-mortar stores.
What is the US law on accessibility ?
The Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities across many areas of life–work, education, transport and even across retail.
The laws says that retailers must make reasonable adjustments to accomodate the needs those with disabilities may have although the legislation remains vague. In the near future, it’s likely that extra legislation across the US and the rest of the world will be enforced to make retail more inclusive.
As it stands, to fully comply with this legislation, retailers need to ensure that they’re building their stores to the right specifications. For instance, there must be a designated number of parking spaces for consumers with disabilities and at least one checkout counter must be no more than 38 inches high to allow access to those using wheelchairs.
What Access Barriers do Disabled Shoppers Face?
Unfortunately, the better question might be: what access barriers don’t disabled shoppers face?
Many retailers are currently failing to do enough to fully support shoppers with disabilities. Here are just a few of the many common problems retailers make which limit store accessibility for disables consumers:
- Messy signage: While brick-and-mortar stores may be designed with accessibility in mind nowadays, placing signage in the wrong place can spoil your brand inclusivity. For example, if you placed a manakin in the middle of a walking route, you’ve potentially just blocked off wheelchair access.
- Website design: Cluttered layouts. Difficult to read text. A lack of image alt text. 98% of the million top web pages aren’t accessible. It can be particularly difficult for those with disabilities to navigate your website if you’re not compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. And if your website isn’t accessible, you’re putting off prospective customers.
- Poor customer service: Your staff can’t deliver exceptional customer service if they haven’t been trained properly. That’s why it’s crucial that you ensure your employees are taught the dos and don’ts of inclusivity and etiquette to make everyone feel welcome in your stores.
Why is accessibility in retail important?
Service accessibility is important if you want to make a truly inclusive experience for customers visiting your physical and online stores.
However, it’s also important for safety reasons. If your store isn’t accessible, you’re going to encounter problems–and not just for those with disabilities. You’re generally more likely to have accidents if your customers have to rely on stairs or poorly organized walkways.
Financially speaking, retailers also have a major incentive to increase their accessibility. Here’s why.
There are 41.1 million people with disabilities in the US–equivalent to 12.7% of the population. According to the American Institutes for Research, the spending power of the disabled community in the United States is nearly $500 billion.
Yet, the Purple Pound found that 73% of potential disabled customers experience barriers on more than a quarter of websites they visited. These problems are enough to deter shoppers from finishing their transactions and ultimately cost retailers millions of dollars per year.
In other words, being inclusive is just smart business.
Examples of retail accessibility
While retailers around the world still have a long way to go, four brands in particular are pushing the needle in the right direction, including:
Across the pond, London’s world famous luxury department store retailer, Harrods, is also leading the way when it comes to accessibility.
There is level access into the store from Basil Street, Hans Crescent and Brompton Road. Harrods also employs doormen to help open the doors at these entrances. There’s also step-free access to each of Harrods’ seven floors via a wheelchair accessible lift.
Starbucks has opened the US’ first signing store in Washington DC. All employees are either deaf or hard of hearing and are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).
The CEO of the National Association of the Dear, Howard A. Rosenblum, shared his thoughts in a statement:
“The National Association of the Deaf applauds Starbucks for opening a Signing Store that employs Deaf and hard of hearing people. Starbucks has taken an innovative approach to incorporating Deaf Culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for Deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society”
Selfridges launched a new quiet shopping hour across their department stores earlier this year to ensure a more inclusive shopping experience for all their shoppers.
Every Wednesday, Selfridges offices and stores will observe a quiet hour from 10am–11am in the morning.
Other retailers who offer quiet store hours include:
- Tesco (9am–10am Wednesdays to Saturdays)
- Superdrug (first hour of trading every Sunday_
- Asda (2pm–3pm Monday to Thursday)
- Intu shopping center brands (typically once a month)
- And many more
Back in 2019, Tesco launched their assisted shopping Hidden Disabilities campaign. Customers can collect Sunflower lanyards at the customer desk without any questioning.
During training, Tesco store team members are taught to look out for people wearing these lanyards and to check if those wearing them need any extra support during their visit.
How do I make my shop more accessible?
You may have retail accessibility services in your stores but if there’s no way for shoppers to reserve them, many consumers won’t leave it up to change. As such, one of the best ways to make your shops more accessible is by deploying an Appointment Scheduling software.
Consider how important the transport sector’s appointment booking services are for those with disabilities. Across airports throughout the US, travelers can schedule assistance to help them board, deplane or connect to another flight. This gives Americans the peace of mind that they’ll be welcomed and well looked after during their journey.
It’s crucial that retailers create a similarly personalized experience across their stores. The added benefit of using an Appointment Booking app for retail accessibility services is that your store team can better allocate resources to make sure they’re providing the right support at the right time.
Accessibility checklist for retailers
To ensure you’re leading the way in customer service accessibility, follow our recommended checklist:
- Remove clutter (like excess stock) from your store floor
- Add ramps and lifts instead of stairs
- Widen your walkways
- Give staff comprehensive training to ensure they have the knowledge to support customers with disabilities
- Remove all trip hazards
- Widen walkways to ensure wheelchair users can easily get around your stores
- Brighten your stores with good lighting to help improve hazard visibility for the visually impaired
- Keep heavy doors propped open throughout open hours
- Use clear signage to help customers navigate your stores
- Make sure customers can remove payment machines from their cases if necessary
- Provide in-store seating to allow customers to rest
- Install accessible toilets with features like a hoist and alarm cord
- Offer water bowls for service dogs
Qudini for accessibility across retail
Qudini knows how crucial accessibility is in retail and banking. That’s why we’re working round the clock to make our Retail Choreography platform completely WCAG 2 compliant.
Get in touch if you’d like to hear about how we’ve made our new booking widget, mobile kiosk and web kiosk fully WCAG 2 compliant or for more tips to achieve complete retail accessibility.