Starbucks melds tech and people to assist the blind
Starbucks is using technology to make trips to get coffee more customer friendly for those who are blind or have otherwise compromised vision.
The chain is implementing a solution that allows blind and low-vision customers to get real-time audio assistance to guide them through stores, according to GeekWire. The solution, which customers can access for free, connects visitors with a human agent who can read the menu and describe items, help navigate the layout of the store and, with a feature specifically geared to the pandemic era, communicate how many people are in line and where they are standing to help the customer maintain social distance.
Starbucks is known for its adoption of socially conscious stances and practices.
The coffee giant scored 100 percent on the Disability Equality Index (DEI) survey in 2016, according to a press release. The company also scored high marks for such initiatives as a Starbucks Inclusion Academy at a roasting plant, which offered specialized training and for hiring people with disabilities to work at two of its facilities. Even at that time, the chain was providing braille and large print menus for the visually impaired, as well as some solutions for customers with difficulty hearing, such a speech-to-text.
Starbucks is not the only brand that is taking steps to more effectively meet the needs of visually impaired customers.
Beauty brand Cleanlogic, as part of an initiative to shift from plastic to all paper packaging, will print braille on every product, according to Glossy. Other brands, like L’Occitane, have also begun placing braille on packaging. Procter & Gamble has begun to make products like Herbal Essences bottles that customers can differentiate from one another by touch. The changes come with an increase in low-vision customers as the Baby Boomer population ages.
Such innovations have likewise been appearing in the pharmacy space, an area of retail with a large senior customer base. Walgreens has, for instance, had a great deal of success with its app designed to incorporate a few senior-targeted features, including variable-sized text for the vision impaired.
- Starbucks implements tech for blind and low-vision customers to aid in-store navigation and more – GeekWire
- Beauty brands are improving accessibility for visually impaired customers – Glossy.co
- Starbucks Recognized as a “Best Place to Work” – Starbucks
- How is Walgreens getting older shoppers to use its mobile app? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should solutions like the one Starbucks is using to help blind and low-vision customers shop become standard practice in retail stores and foodservice establishments? Are there steps that small chains and independents can afford to take?