State of the Supermarket NationFriday, June 25, 2004
The AbilityNet spotlight for this quarter is firmly on the websites of supermarkets. The top five supermarkets websites were assessed, so Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons, ASDA and Somerfield went head to head. Of course, since Tesco also have an accessible version of their website, that was measured too.
Not surprisingly, the Tesco access website came out tops, scoring an unprecedented four out of six points, followed by Tesco's own website and Somerfield with two out of six. The other four companies all scored one point.
Accessibility benefits not limited to disabled
Julie Howell from the RNIB makes an interesting point in regards to Tesco's access website:
Many fully-sighted people find Tesco's simply designed Access site offers them a better user experience than any other supermarket website. Developed for vision-impaired users, it now takes a surprising £13 million a year, and seems to attract a much wider audience than originally intended.
Separate but not equal
AbilityNet comments on the Tesco approach of two separate websites:
Note: AbilityNet subscribes to the opinion that an organisation's website can and should be accessible and usable to the broadest audience possible. When the issues of an exisiting website mean that achieving accessibility is infeasible, however, the introduction of a second, accessible, site is appropriate. This is what Tesco have done.
Earlier this week, in my first blog post to accessify.com, I commented on the parallels of two websites to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. The point being that even with the best intentions of being accessible, segregation of an audience does not produce an equitable solution.
Recently, Tesco have had problems maintaining equivalency across both websites. Notably, special offers on their main website were not available to the access-version visitors. Whether that was by design or by oversight is irrelevant, its the lesser (non-equivalent) service offered that produces an actionable discriminatory challenge.
Matt May, an Accessibility Specialist with the W3C, better defines the parallels between segregation and the two website approach, (and noticing disabled visitors to the Euro 2004 website still didn't know the final result of the Portugal v England quarter final clash eight hours after it finished) and concludes:
The Brown v. Board of Education case, whose 50th anniversary was recently celebrated, settled the issue brought up by the Plessy verdict, by saying, essentially, what we all know by now: "separate but equal" is never equal. Not then, and certainly not now.
- out-law: Tesco.com shames rivals on accessibility - and legal services
- State of the eNation report - Online Supermarkets [PDF]
- AccessifyForum: Latest AbilityNet report & Radio 4's In Touch
- US Supreme Court: Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (USSC+)