Restaurants are increasingly reliant on self-service technology to improve the customer experience. From handheld or desktop tablets used to collect payment to kiosks used for self-service ordering, technology allows restaurants to provide a variety of options to customers to enhance their visit. However, it is incumbent upon restaurants to provide an accessible and equal experience for all their customers when utilizing these new technologies.
Customers with disabilities are often left out of the interactive experience due to the misconception that guests who are blind or who have low vision are more easily satisfied with the assistance of an in-person attendant. Yet this alternative does not provide an experience comparable to that of a non-visually impaired patron. Most people with disabilities do not want to be treated any differently from anyone else, and an in-person attendant often serves as a reminder of their disability.
The Future of Kiosks in the Restaurant Industry
Kiosks allow users to avoid lines and oftentimes allow them a greater ability to customize their order. Kiosk deployers typically attempt to design the kiosk interface to decrease the time it takes for a user to place an order. No one – neither the restaurant nor the restaurant patron – is well-served if the time it takes to place an order on a kiosk is significantly slower for users with disabilities and requires additional human assistance.
Restaurant self-service kiosks are currently deployed in leading restaurant chains such as Taco Bell, KFC, Panera Bread, Wendy’s, Subway, and Dunkin’ Donuts via both pilots and full international rollouts. Additionally, tabletop ordering or payment tablets are used in TGI Fridays, Olive Garden, Friendly’s, Tropical Smoothie, and Chili’s, to name a few. Self-ordering and self-service POS solutions are running apps such as Appetize, Tillster, and Ziosk. In these examples, the user experience should be accessible for all patrons, whether on a robust kiosk enclosure or a small handheld tablet.
In order for a kiosk to be conformant, accessibility needs to be a priority in the design, development, hardware, and testing stages. Retrofitting an application or enclosure is an option, but is often more challenging than designing with accessibility in mind from the beginning.
Ensuring an Accessible Kiosk Experience
Some things to consider when determining if a self-service solution is accessible include:
- Can the user navigate the application if they can’t see or cannot see well? Is there text-to-speech technology in place and is there an audio jack for headphones? If yes, does the audio output of the application make sense and is it easy to use and navigate without sight?
- Is the device physically accessible for those in a wheelchair? Can they reach the enclosure and are they able to view the screen?
- If the content on the kiosk is a video/audio medium, is it also available for users who are deaf or hard of hearing?
In addition to these questions, it is important to know if the self-service device meets the standards set forth in the American Disabilities Act (ADA). The interactive application should also meet with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) if it is an interactive website or browser-based application. Conformance is often overlooked by traditional kiosk deployers, but luckily there are accessibility experts who will pick up the slack and ensure an accessible experience.
Why Does Kiosk Accessibility Matter?
Accessibility is not just the profitable thing to do (though the absence of support for users with disabilities can negatively impact their experiences with the brand and influence their choice of restaurant in future), or the legal thing to do, it is the right thing to do to service all restaurant patrons.
By improving accessibility and usability for people who are blind or who have low vision, those in wheelchairs, or who are deaf, it improves the experience for all users. Presenting self-service kiosk content and navigation redundancies means presenting multiple ways to receive information, make selections, and interact with kiosk content. In addition to serving the disabled community, redundancies allow users to select the methods and experience that meets their preferences and can provide a better experience for users who do not read English, who are elderly, and those with temporary disabilities.
Self-service kiosks are a perfect opportunity to improve the customer experience, increase profits, test new menu items, and optimize space. Doing so in a manner that is accessible is critical to the success of these kiosk deployments and will well-serve both the restaurant and its guests.
Top photo: Kiosk deployed by Olea Kiosks, Inc.