Some people shop for pleasure and some for necessity only. But everyone shops. For individuals with disabilities shopping can be challenging, and retailers want to provide them with an easy, accessible shopping experience. For the retail environment, many countries have workstation design or accessibility regulations that must be met. In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides guidelines on height, reach, clearance and other requirements for general workstations, and a few specific expectations for retail workstations1. In many respects, the U.S. ADA tends to provide the strictest requirements and is often used as the default standard, especially for retail stores.
For several years now, self-checkout systems have been rapidly expanding into grocery and discount stores. In fact, retailers now see 15-40% of daily sales transactions going through self-checkouts2. Consumers typically use self-checkout because it allows them to control the pace and organization of a sales transaction while affording a level of privacy that is not present during checkout with a cashier. Consumers with disabilities desire the same level of control and privacy when they shop. Consequently, retailers require self-checkout solutions that are accessible.
For many years, IBM has been the predominant supplier of computerized point-of-sale (POS) terminals and cash registers worldwide. Cash registers, however, are used by select, trained store employees. In 2003, IBM entered the self-checkout arena by acquiring Productivity Solutions Inc. (PSI)3 and the original IBM 4845 self-checkout solution that was subsequently released was considered accessible. From the start, though, we knew it could be improved.
Initial Design Enhancements
In 2004, the Retail Store Solutions development team set out to provide an easy-to-use self-checkout solution suitable for all consumers including individuals with disabilities. Primary design changes and their effects were:
Further Accessibility Improvements
Over time, as accessibility standards were interpreted and applied by municipalities, the IBM self-checkout system was incrementally improved in response to stricter interpretation of U.S. state and federal accessibility laws. Specifically, components were brought within ADA maximum height and reach requirements:
- Touch screens were equipped with a pivoting mount and handles to allow users, with a force of only 4 lbs, to move the monitor downward by 5 inches so that all buttons or touch points were lower than 46 inches.
- Printers were relocated and fitted with diverters to ensure receipts could be grasped within 24 inches.
- Coin and bill input slots were lowered further to stay below 46 inches even if one-inch leveling feet were added to the self-checkout.
IBM has proven its commitment to develop accessible self-checkout solutions that satisfy the unique needs of retailers in multiple geographies. To date, strong self-checkout sales bear out the benefits of this approach – especially with notable retailers such as Stop & Shop, BJs Wholesale Club, Defense Commissary Agency, Giant Eagle, HyVee, Key Foods, Supermercados Sabeco, S.A., E. LeClerc, and many others.
Going forward, IBM will continue improving and selling its accessible self-checkout solutions. Accessibility is accepted as both a basic necessity and a competitive differentiation in self-checkout offerings.
References and More Information
- ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG), U.S. Access Board, 1991 (as amended through September 2002)
- IHL Group, 2008 North America Self-Service Kiosks Market Study, 6/5/2008
- IBM Acquires Retail Self-Checkout Leader, PSI, IBM Press Release, 11/13/2003
- IBM Self Checkout Systems, Product Overview, 2009
- IBM Self-Contained, Closed Product Accessibility Checklist, IBM Human Ability & Accessibility Center