Ensuring Kiosk Accessibility is a Matter of Inclusivity
As the functionality of self-service kiosks has improved and installation prices become cheaper, along with industry labour shortage problems we are witnessing a surge in the number of kiosks in stores due to their impactful benefits. Most will agree that they are a convenient solution for customers, reducing queue times and providing faster ordering for those of us that hate lengthy queues. Kiosks allow us more control over our purchases and to process our returns by ourselves, as well as facilitating click and collect options, and providing us with additional product information when we need. Self-service kiosks can even assist with wayfinding in malls or as patient self check-in at hospitals. The benefits extend to the retailers and businesses alike- since kiosks provide an unattended option they help with staff shortages or a speedier flow during peak times. They also allow existing staff to be redeployed to more pressing tasks that may be neglected and improve customer service with upsell/ cross sells recommendations amongst many other highlights. So whilst it’s great that kiosks have gained such wide acceptance- some might even say ‘revolutionised’ the retail industry, but have we considered those that are unable to use them and why they can’t?
Challenges with Touchscreens
Kiosks heavily rely on touchscreens but this can pose challenges for individuals with disabilities or the elderly. For example, people with visual impairments may struggle to see the screen, while the elderly and those with mobility impairments or motor control disabilities might have inaccurate touches which can be very frustrating and can lead to feelings of embarrassment. Let’s also consider the blind who are not able to use a traditional touchscreen at all.
The World Blind Union estimates that there are approximately 253 million people worldwide who are blind or visually impaired. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability that affects their daily activities with 13.7% of them experiencing difficulties with fine motor tasks such as writing, using a computer mouse, or using touchscreens. To highlight the situation and importance of the matter, another survey by Scope in the UK which was conducted in 2019 found that 53% of people with disabilities have experienced accessibility issues when using touchscreens in public spaces.
The survey found that the most common accessibility issues were:
- Touchscreens were too small or difficult to reach.
- Text on the touchscreens was too small or difficult to read.
- Touchscreens did not have accessible features, such as speech output or magnification.
The survey also found that people with disabilities were more likely to experience accessibility issues when using touchscreens in certain public spaces, such as:
- Transport hubs, such as airports and train stations.
- Retail stores.
- Government buildings.
Legislation and Initiatives Driving Change
The above statistics along with legislations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States, the Accessible Canada Act in Canada, and the European Accessibility Act in Europe which is due to be enforced in 2025 as well as the Equality Act of 2010 recognises the importance of accessibility for individuals with disabilities. These regulations rightly aim to overcome the barriers and create inclusive and independent communities by improving accessibility to services and technology in public spaces.
So, let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves: Is kiosks accessibility an afterthought? Are we doing enough to make kiosks truly convenient and inclusive for ALL customers or are we just catering for some by making some adjustments?
Creating an Inclusive User Journey
Legislations may be one driving factor, but in a world which we are trying to make more inclusive, it is imperative that we ensure that all kiosks are accessible and functional to anyone who chooses to use them regardless of their disability or age. As mentioned above, while touch screens work well for the majority and are accessible to those who are deaf or have hearing impairments, what about those with other disabilities? With the right UI, touchscreens can be made larger and easier to reach, and it is possible to increase the font size on touchscreens or use zoom features which may help the elderly or visually impaired. However, these adjustments do not fully address the needs of those who are blind, have hand mobility impairments, or Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD).
So, again we need to ask the following questions whilst designing and installing kiosks to ensure that we cater to all:
- Can everyone- including people with disabilities easily access the kiosk?
- Is it convenient or frustrating and time consuming?
- What other solution can we integrate?
Let’s always be mindful and remember that neglecting to provide the same level of convenience to all customers will not only have a negative social impact, but can also have an adverse impact on a brand’s image like the recent backlash on Marks and Spencers for not providing disabled friendly kiosks, whereas providing a convenient and inclusive user journey will be celebrated by customers with disabilities, and can have a positive effect on brand loyalty since all customers will undoubtedly feel welcomed and valued just as they deserve to. But how can we do this?
Improving Accessibility with Voice AI
Well, integrating Voice AI into kiosks emerges as an effective solution that bridges the gap, making kiosks fully accessible and provides social inclusion to those with disabilities. Conversational Voice AI technology can be integrated as an overlay along with any touch commands into new or existing kiosks to become even more accessible by allowing customers to interact using their voice quickly and naturally instead of touch.
The elderly, customers with physical or hand mobility impairments and those with sensory processing disorders (SPD) or visual impairments will find it easier and more convenient to interact with a voice-enabled kiosk that doesn’t require physical button presses or screen swipes. Now, such customers can independently and intuitively ask the conversational Voice AI assistant in a very natural manner to place an order, check out, ask for directions or process a return just as if they were conversing with a store assistant, without relying on others for assistance. As you can see, by offering a touchless alternative, we easily alleviate potential difficulties with touch screens or navigating mouse pads.
Enhanced Shopping Experience for all
While the benefits of voice enabled kiosks for accessibility needs are a game changer, let’s also note that Voice AI will benefit other customers as well.
Customers in a hurry can check out three times faster than navigating touch controls, and customers who prefer a more hands-free shopping experience or those with hygiene concerns will be able to interact with the kiosks in a less stressful manner. Other than the increased interactivity and engagement, Voice AI can really enable retailers to provide an improved overall shopping experience with improved customer service since the Voice AI assistant will always begin with a pleasant greeting, offer personalised recommendations based on current basket and reward customers with loyalty discounts. The assistant can also help to increase sales by suggesting upsells, providing more specific product information and allowing customers to complete payments seamlessly for a truly frictionless experience that feels very natural through it’s conversational features. The experience is so engaging and natural that customers easily forget they are talking to an AI assistant and maintain the same level of courtesy as they would a member of staff by saying ‘please and thank-you’! Voice AI also offers a multilingual solution which again is socially inclusive as it overcomes any language barriers without the user struggling to understand or requiring assistance / translator.
I hope you will agree that in our quest for convenience, we should not overlook the importance of inclusivity but rather make it a priority.
Businesses and brands, as well as kiosk manufacturers should always ensure kiosk accessibility to create more welcoming environments for their customers with the the integration of Voice AI. By enhancing the accessibility of kiosks in public spaces, we can ensure that every individual regardless of their physical challenges, feels included and give increased independence by eliminating the need to ask for assistance or face embarrassing challenges while using the kiosk.
Customers with disabilities will in turn appreciate retailers and public sector leaders catering to their needs, and ultimately achieve social inclusion and improved brand loyalty due to their increased customer satisfaction.
To learn more about enhancing your kiosk’s accessibility with Sodaclick Voice AI, contact us below and let us work together to create an inclusive and accessible future for all.
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