By Anne Drewa
Posted May 27, 2021
Many people are relying on online shopping during the pandemic. A convenient and safe way to get groceries. For blind and visually impaired consumers it’s even more critical. Consumer Matters reporter Anne Drewa has more on one man’s struggle with a large grocery chain after its shopping app went through a major upgrade to handle the pandemic demand.
“I should be able to expect the same range of services as people who are sighted,” Richard Marion told Global News.
Marion, who is blind, says In January, Save-On-Foods upgraded its grocery shopping app. He says immediately after that upgrade the main screen of the app for the visually impaired became unusable.
“The home screen couldn’t be accessed at all using the built-in screen reader on an iPhone,” Marion said, adding, “you couldn’t find the weekly flyers. It would say that they are there, but they actually wouldn’t read the items. You couldn’t find your past purchases.”
For several months Marion says he repeatedly contacted the Save-On-Foods customer service department, wrote letters, even volunteered to speak with the IT department, but received little response. “What I wanted was a timeline to resolve it. I wasn’t after compensation or anything from them. I just wanted them to fix the problem,” he said.
Consumer Matters reached out to Save-On-Foods on Marion’s behalf. Shortly after, he got a call from the president of the grocery chain – Darrell Jones. “He said he was phoning about the accessibility issue of the app and apologized for it and basically said they had no excuse and they had dropped the ball,” said Marion.
In a statement, Save-On-Foods said in part ” Our development teams continue to work on bug fixes and platform enhancements to make the site WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) compliant. We understand this has caused a significant impact to many of our customers and are working as fast as we can to fix the bugs which are causing these issues.” – Save-On-Foods
Blind rights advocate Rob Sleath who represents Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers says Marion’s recent experience is all too common.
“There’s many instances where we’ve written to companies to file human rights complaints to get their websites accessible,” Sleath said, adding, “I think most web developers, engineers, managers, who are dealing in the digital platform really do want to make their websites accessible, but unfortunately the problem is they design a website without people with disabilities in mind and so to go back and make that website accessible now is a big job.”
Since Consumer Matters reached out to Save-On-Foods it has also offered to shop online for Marion while the app issues get worked out.