Is online shopping accessible? — Scope | Disability forum
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Is online shopping accessible?

Ross_Scope
Ross_Scope Posts: 5,389

Scope community team

edited December 2020 in Coffee lounge
Today is Cyber Monday, an annual event that follows Thanks Giving weekend and Black Friday, which is intended to encourage shoppers to do their shopping online.

Even before 2020, people didn't need much encouragement to do that, but after nearly 9 months of a global pandemic the appeal of online shopping has never been greater.

For disabled people, who have been disproportionately impacted by Coronavirus and are much more likely to be in a higher risk category and shielding, it is essential that online shopping is accessible and fit for purpose. 

Taking advantage of the Purple Pound

The Purple Pound refers to the spending power of households in which at least one occupant is a disabled person. The Purple Pound equates to an estimated £249 billion per year to the UK economy but yet very few businesses have direct strategies to tap into this consumer market and therefore a lot of that money goes unspent.

In fact, less than 10% of businesses in the UK have a strategy in place to utilise the spending power of those falling under the Purple Pound category. With approximately 14.1 million disabled people in the UK, and around 82% of the public regularly shopping online, you can start to see an emerging picture of a fundamental failing of the system to make accommodations for disabled people and their families.
5 pound bank note

Online shopping, is it accessible?

Being able to independently use the internet gives disabled people access to vital medical, travel and financial services. But also everyday services like grocery shopping and buying clothes online. And while the accessibility of online shopping has come a long way in recent years, and continues to evolve, there is still a long way to go. 

From my personal point of view, as a screen reader user, I find myself increasingly put off from doing my online shopping through a web browser on my laptop. I find that so many of the top websites these days, such as Amazon or eBay, have so many pop up graphics that interrupt the flow and focus of the screen reader, therefore turning what is supposed to be an enjoyable process into a rather tedious one. 
I much prefer to do my online shopping through an app on my phone, for the following reasons:
  • I generally find the mobile versions of shopping websites much more screen reader compatible
  • it is much more likely that there will be a dark mode option on a phone app
  • I find the zooming functionality easier on a phone, rather than a laptop
  • the condensed version of a shopping platform makes for much less clutter on a phone, and thus better navigation

The Big Hack by Scope has surveyed disabled people around the UK to find out about their experiences of online shopping, because one of the best ways to improve digital accessibility is to get feedback from those that good accessibility is there to benefit. 

When trying to find out what industries disabled shoppers experienced the most difficulty with, at the top of the list was groceries with 39% of respondents saying they experienced difficulty purchasing or ordering food or drink online. Train-booking websites were the second most common area, with 38% of users reporting difficulty using train travel services online. In third place, 36% of respondents reported poor digital experiences with clothing and footwear retailers.

It is thought that fewer than 1% of website homepages would meet current accessibility standards, and likewise that 97% of the largest websites out there would not be considered accessible. Let's have a think about just how many of those websites will be trying to sell something, a very high proportion I would imagine.

The Big Hack has also published data on what disabled customers are most likely to do when they are failed by a business online, the results are as follows:
  •  50% of respondents would not buy the item​ they are trying to get
  • 48% would find an alternative provider to buy the item more easily, such as a provider with a more accessible website.​
  • 32% would ask someone in their household to complete the purchase for them
  • 20% would do something else.

How accessible do you find online shopping?

Looking at this data, you would conclude that online shopping isn't accessible, nowhere near it, and when even large brands like Dominos have shown resistance to the concept of accessibility, it's clear there is still a very long way to go.
  • how do you like to carry out your online shopping?
  • are there any accessible websites you'd recommend, or contrarily any inaccessible ones you wouldn't?
  • is there a specific industry you think needs to do better?
  • How accessible do you find online shopping overall?
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