Accessibility in software makes your checkout time faster, even in real life.

Today at a grocery store, my checkout clerk was a young woman with poor eyesight. She was swift as a clerk in most regards, unless she needed to read the fine print on an item, or glance at her display.

Each time she looked at the monitor to confirm that a code had been correctly input, she brought her face to within a couple inches of the display. Even though she was just as physically capable and energetic as the rest of the clerks working, she had to move around a whole lot more. This one impairment slowed her down and made the ergonomics of the station less effective for her.

Yes, she was wearing glasses. But maybe something happened yesterday to her main pair, and she still had to go to work, so she used an older prescription. Who knows.

What really got to me was that the readout on her display was identical to every other monitor in every other checkout line. And it was dim. The software is written to only display the text one way and one size.

The monitors all face the customer as well, so we can see our groceries as they’re rung up. This grocery store was just recently renovated, including all the checkout lines.

Maybe the designers of the software never considered that one of the clerks could be in a situation that makes it hard for them to see. Or whoever specified the hardware decided that the cost of a display with brighter maximum brightness wouldn’t get sufficient return on investment.

But if it can be a problem for the clerk, how many customers with impaired eyesight never get to see what the display says? What is that experience like for them? Do they prefer other grocery stores where the software has higher contrast and the text is larger or closer to them?

Checkout is an important part of any purchase experience, because the last part of any memory colours our perception of the whole event. Smooth sailing through the whole shopping experience, but a bad checkout feels bad overall, but a bad time shopping doesn’t seem so terrible when the checkout is smooth and painless.

As a customer, I would have much preferred the line move faster to the text on screen being consistent. It doesn’t matter how small you think your target audience is, accessibility still matters.

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