Online food retailers fail disabled people this Christmas

By Robin Christopherson

Shopping online for those Christmas dinner essentials is needlessly difficult for disabled people.

This is not only miserable for them, but also bad news for shops which are missing out on untapped billions from customers unable to access their goods.

Our research saw testers with a range of conditions from blindness and low vision to learning difficulties, shop for a turkey, a Christmas pudding and a dozen crackers at the five top online food retailers using both website and, where available, mobile apps.

Of the five websites sampled, 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.

The 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.

In the report, three stars suggests that the site or app satisfies many of the technical and legal requirements laid down in the 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.

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’.

With an estimated two million UK residents having a vision impairment, some 1.5 million experiencing cognitive difficulties, six million dyslexic people and a further 3.4 million struggling to use a standard set-up, it’s easy to see why retailers who ignore the needs of this vast section of the community risk missing out on the so- called Purple Pound – a market which represents a spending power of some £120 billion every year.

As this report shows, there are plenty of high profile companies that are contravening legal requirements by not considering their disabled customers

To read the full report visit


About the author

Robin Christopherson is head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet, which helps disabled people use digital technology at work, at home and in education, explains.

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).


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