Grocery Stores, Check-Out & ADA

By | May 3, 2024

Original article complete with pictures and video is located here.

Disabled Shoppers Struggle With Inaccessible Self-Checkouts

We did a review of yet another supermarket checkout this time article from Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on inaccessible self-checkouts. Blind people, wheelchair users and others say the design of typical self-service machines prevents them from shopping independently. By Katie Deighton

It’s a good article and always nice to see accessibility issues communicated in mainstream media, however, once again it tends to point the finger at kiosk manufacturers (which I represent as manager of kiosk association). The real manifestation is not kiosks at all, but touchscreens with POS “warts”. I would go as far to say companies like NCR and Toshiba don’t sell a uniform kiosk. What they do is build, design, deliver and service what companies like Walmart, Target, Krogers and Marks and Spencers ask them to provide.

Summary In Brief of the Article

Are these PCI devices legitimately used?
Are these PCI devices unattended?
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Here is a Walmart 2022. Imagine in a wheelchair dealing with the touchscreen or the POS wart for that matter.
  • Good to see continued awareness
  • RBR, who counts NCR and Toshiba as clients, estimates rising shipments
  • 2018 – 80,000
  • 2019 — 141,000
  • 2021 – 200,000
  • Not sure how many new, how many replacements
  • Speed is main driver
  • Pretty weird health justification. Definitely more vulnerable in self-checkout than you are in a line with clerk, at least when it comes to airborne which is 10X the factor of surfaces touched.
  • Picture of Marks and Spencer and actions they tool
  • McDonalds in an airport. Are these employee assisted? Look like standard Verifone terminals.
  • NFB Hackert recommends headphone jack, screen-reader sw and tactile keyboard
  • Hackert puts responsibility on the vendors providing the kiosks
  • Fast-food restaurants should offer unassisted accessibility
  • Academic explains kiosk purchase process
  • The article quotes — In the U.S., regulations concerning technological accessibility don’t specifically cover self-service checkouts and kiosks. And ATMs are standard.
  • Walmart 2018 legal victory in Maryland with staff assistance is referenced (nothing about 2017 California verdict against)
  • Eve Hill comments on privacy and she is always good to hear from
  • Article closes with pointing to U.S. Access Board future actions.

Now for the critique (if I may)

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Note the angle and extension of the payment “wart”
  • Biggest critique would be categorizing self-checkout at supermarkets as “kiosks”. Hybrid POS is more accurate.
  • Accessibility consultants always blame kiosk manufacturers, never the companies deploying.
  • Accessibility only matters when there is payment involved.
  • Despite its “gated accessibility” for articles, the WSJ is still a welcome communicator of accessibility issues.
  • It’s unfortunate that it is the Walmarts and Krogers (in the US) do not feel the imperative to demand more comprehensive accessibility engineering from suppliers like NCR and Toshiba. Maybe they do in California where the Unruh Act has already bit Walmart.
  • Probably, the occasional settlement these companies pay is relegated to the cost-of-doing-business accounting column (much like casinos). FOBS or Fear of Being Sued is reserved for SMB which do not drive that market.
  • Headphone jacks are fine, as long as they work and many don’t, especially in the ATM world
  • Having regulations such as the old antiquated ones in the ATM world are no substitute for enforcing regulations (however old). To their credit companies such as NCR have invested in accessibility in the ATMs
  • The chicken-little syndrome still gets used i.e. “there aren’t clear guidelines for kiosks”. There are regulations (operable parts for example) that are applied to kiosks. There are no specific regulations for hybrid POS except for PCI DSS.
  • There is a big difference between “regulations covering” and “regulations enforced”. Take a look at compliance at the federal and state level where Section 508/etc is absolutely mandated.
  • Regulations in the private retail space are decidedly different than in the federal and state space but enforcement remains low in both.
  • Note all the merchandising at foot level in the picture. This is Kroger which is Toshiba. Click for full size
  • Those same POS devices which are used in unattended are most times not certified by PCI SSC for unattended cardholder data (aka CAT or Cardholder Activated Transaction). The large retail chains want economies of use by using the same device across attended and unattended and figuratively “twist the arm” of the POS provider to provide conditional exceptions on liabilities. That reduces provisioning costs and service costs for them.
  • You have to wonder how McDonalds deploys non-CAT certified POS devices “outside” their restaurant (airport terminal e.g.)
  • These are NOT kiosks just like they are NOT ATMs for that matter. They are hybrid POS customer-operated. Lots of them on counters at stores where you “swipe” your card.
  • Too often these articles leave the impression that there is some essential kiosk that everybody sells.
  • The buying and deploying companies issue their RFP with requirements laid out. The vendors recommend adding accessibility options. The buying and deploying companies check with bean counters and budget, and then they decline the additional options which add time, cost + potentially slow down the speed of transactions.
  • Another real-life example is the AT&T Bill Payment machine. The POS device is mounted out of ADA spec, and at the insistence of AT&T we think because some marketing person thought “it looks better at that angle”.
  • It’s noteworthy that authorities in the kiosk industry are never interviewed for these articles or the POS providers for that matter (which are always the key trigger point). Consultants and academics have their own vested interests and to a large extent the term “kiosks” is used almost as a deflection. Simplifying the equation, it is mostly a touchscreen in tandem with POS device.

Excerpt from article:

Stores’ self-checkout machines can annoy shoppers with error messages about unexpected items in the bagging area and other hiccups. But for some disabled people, they are often unusable.

Blind people can have trouble navigating the touchscreens. Deaf people might not be able to troubleshoot on kiosks that connect to a customer-service worker located somewhere else. And wheelchair users sometimes can’t reach or see the screens, or fit their chairs comfortably in the space allocated to each checkout.

The problem is spreading as companies continue to install self-service transaction machines around the world, some disabled people and disability-rights activists say. It also has the potential to put the brakes on companies’ efforts to automate much of the shopping experience in the name of speed and cost savings, as lawyers and lawmakers begin to scrutinize accessibility in a retail context.

“Why should I have less choice on how I check out my shopping just because I have one leg and I’m in a wheelchair?” said Lyndsay Watterson, an above-the-knee amputee who lives in the U.K. and has founded Neo Walk, a maker of fashion-forward walking sticks.

“I don’t want to go to a staff checkout because I’m still vulnerable to catching infections, and I don’t want someone else handling my stuff,” she said. “[Self-checkout] just cuts out that extra person that you’ve got to interact with.”

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