Updated: Feb 20
The heart is where the home is but the house is where the community lives. Quality of life extends beyond the functionality of your house, it also includes the conveniences that your community provides. One of the conveniences is the availability to easily shop for groceries. For individuals with disabilities, the success of shopping for groceries depends on the layout of the store and the services offered. For example, are the grocery items organized in a convenient way or spread across the store to increase traffic flow in more aisles? So do these new Amazon Go stores that preach ease of shopping include access for the disabled community? Lets us discuss.
What is an Amazon Go Store?
The Amazon Go stores motto is "just walk out." Amazon Go stores are micro stores with limited but most frequently needed grocery items. Amazon Go Stores started in 2017 and has expanded to a few Whole Food stores. Unlike other stores out there, Amazon Go stores allow you to shop in person without checking out.
What do you mean you don't checkout?!
Amazon Go stores uses artificial intelligence called "Just Walkout Technology," to create a virtual shopping cart through its Amazon app with items that shoppers leave the store without checking out. The Virtual shopping cart is created when a shopper scans the Amazon app barcode when entering the store. Amazon uses sensor fusion technology similar to self-driving vehicles to ensure that shoppers are only billed for items they want and not for items that were placed back on the shelf.
How is it accessible?
I first learned about Amazon Go stores through one of my favorite blogs, AssistivTechnologyBlog.com in a September 2021 article, "Amazon's just walk out will make shopping easy for people with disabilities," by Venkat. In Venkat view, Amazon Go stores will require.....
"No more fumbling for credit cards, cash or ID at the checkout counter, especially for those who may not have good motor skills, hand tremors or other disabilities that may make the checkout process uncomfortable."
I don't personally disagree that using checkout counters is an uncomfortable experience for people with disabilities, including myself as a wheelchair user. In most case, checkout counters are at waste high, making it difficult to place items on the conveyor belt. But there are other disabilities that could be impacted negatively.
Amazon Go stores don't just rely on in house technology as previously described above. Amazon also relies on each shopper having a cell phone and the ability to use their Amazon app. We may think that everyone has a cell phone but it is an additional cost to have one that some may not be able to afford. According to Pew Research Center study, 16% fewer people with disabilities own a smart phone compared to those who don't have a disability. Demonstrating that there is a greater chance that shoppers with disabilities at Amazon Go stores won't have a cell phone to log into their virtual shopping cart.
Individuals with dexterity
Amazon created the option for those who do not have a cell phone to scan a person's palm, instead of the app barcode, when entering the store through a device they called Amazon One. It's very similar to the concept of unlocking your cellphone with your finger. While providing the option to scan one's palm solves the solution of not having a cellphone, it could create another for those who has a dexterity disability that make it difficult to lay one's palm flat.
So what the verdict on Amazon Go stores accessibility?
Amazon states that in their Amazon Go stores, checkout counters are still provided
for those who rather not use the Amazon app. Furthermore, Amazon Go stores will not be void of employees but rather reallocated to helping stock the shelves rather than at the checkout counters. These same employees will be also be available for individuals with disabilities who may need additional help in checking out.
So like most new technology, it will be accessible for some disabilities while not for others.