Is retail finally becoming accessible to everyone?

As one of the world’s most respected Paralympians and an icon of the London 2012 Olympic Games, ‘Hurricane’ Hannah Cockroft MBE will soon travel to the Tokyo Summer Olympics, to once again represent the ‘GB team.

And as the world reopens, Hannah, who advocates for accessibility and awareness within the retail and hospitality industries, used her platform to remind businesses that everyone deserves an experience. pleasant shopping.

“In a world where businesses evolve and make welcome changes, it is increasingly important to ensure that organizations are accessible and inclusive for all,” says Hannah.

With over 13 million people in the UK – one fifth of the population has a disability, almost a third (29%) of people with disabilities spend money in retail businesses every week.

Yet a pre-covid study published by Purple, the organization behind the Purple Tuesday campaign – pointed out that more than half of those surveyed had difficulty purchasing a product and / or service because of their handicap.

A much needed change is underway in physical retail with initiatives like Sainsburys’ ‘Signsbury’s’ campaign, in which the grocer has encouraged customers to engage, learn and use sign language in one. inclusive pop-up supermarket. Earlier this year, Starbucks launched a sign language store in Shanghai, where 5 of 12 employees are deaf.

Many retailers have now introduced “quiet” or “autism friendly” hours in stores and malls, to provide a sensory and more peaceful shopping experience for those who need it.

The sharp increase in online shopping in the UK in 2020 (online retail sales increased by + 37%, more than six times that of 2019 according to the RMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index) has also led to an increased awareness of the need to also offer an accessible online shopping experience.

This is a shopping experience that needs to be truly accessible, giving users with disabilities the full experience just like any able-bodied buyer.

This year, tech giant Apple announced new software features designed for people with motor, visual, hearing and cognitive disabilities. New technologies facilitate accessibility which help make the brand’s products customizable for all users.

The company will also roll out updates to all of its operating systems to allow people with different limbs to be able to navigate their Apple Watch using AssistiveTouch. This will allow users with upper body limb differences to enjoy the benefits of the watch without having to touch the screen or controls. With built-in motion sensors, optical heart rate sensor, and on-device machine learning, Apple Watch can detect subtle differences in muscle movement and tendon activity, allowing users to navigate a cursor on the screen by hand gestures, such as pinching or squeezing. Apple claims that AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch will make it easier for customers with different limbs to “answer incoming calls, control an on-screen motion pointer, and access Action Center, Control Center, etc.” . ”.

Updates will also be made for the iPad to support third-party eye tracking hardware for easier control. A voice-over screen reader will help blind and visually impaired communities by providing smarter intelligence on the device to explore objects in images.

As many brand relationships start online, developing accessible sites creates a place for a 24/7 customer experience that is responsive to the needs and wants of all users. When grocery giant Tesco started evolving its shopping app, development was concerned with creating access for all.

The design team behind the vision ensured that the brand’s core values ​​play a big role in this strategy –

“One of the team members, Rob Graham, did a bit of genius work and found a way to tie them together to Tesco’s slogan: ‘Every little help’ and created a mnemonic, which we came back to often. , which was: Each – is it designed for everyone? ; Kid – have we cut this down to the basics? ; and help – are we maximizing utility? explained Justin Stach, the former head of design and applications manager at Tesco.

The commitment of big brands like Apple to provide a better experience for all customers appears to be a positive step forward on the road to greater accessibility for all, and as Mike Adams, CEO of Purple, said. Tuesday while promoting the Purple Tuesday campaign –

“It just shouldn’t be the case that one in two people with disabilities have trouble shopping online or in person. Small changes can make a big difference in the customer experience; we want to help organizations gain the confidence to improve their services to people with disabilities ”

In addition to the aforementioned technology soon to be launched by Apple, the tech giant is also launching a new service called SignTime. This allows customers to communicate with AppleCare and retail customer service using American Sign Language (ASL) in the United States, British Sign Language (BSL) in the United Kingdom, or French Sign Language (LSF). in France, from their web browsers.

“At Apple, we’ve long believed that the best technology in the world should meet everyone’s needs, and our teams work tirelessly to build accessibility into everything we make,” said Sarah Herrlinger, senior policy director and Apple’s global accessibility initiatives. “With these new features, we are pushing the boundaries of innovation with next-generation technologies that bring the fun and functionality of Apple technology to even more people – and we look forward to sharing them with our users.”

A commitment from top brands to providing a better experience for all will most certainly reduce the difficulties of day-to-day interactions, ensuring that those with additional support needs are heard, served and also empowered to spend what is often referred to as the vital “Purple Pound”. As the evolution of technology rages on, no consumer should be left behind.


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