Visually impaired, advocates call for changes to improve online grocery shopping

Anne Jarry would like to see some major improvements made by Canada’s large grocery store chains to improve their websites and make online shopping a lot easier for the visually impaired.

“Frustrated because you go online and you go, geez, why is this still not a law,” Jarry told Global News.

The Montreal resident uses a voice-activated screen reader to help her navigate the web.

The software is very useful with websites that offer descriptive texts to images, an area in which Jarry says Canadian grocers fall short.

“Make sure that you know how to create a website that will have a text alternative to those images,” she said.

Jarry does most of her shopping at independent grocers within walking distance from her home, but she would like to add the online shopping experience to increase selection and find more competitive prices.

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“If there is one thing that most people today are looking for are low-cost prices in groceries,” she said.

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An advocacy group for the visually impaired is trying to put pressure on Canadian grocery store chains to improve the online experience for those with disabilities, but progress is slow.

“If I’m buying food, and I’m hoping to be able to select what I want to buy because I’m trying to satisfy a basic need and I can’t, it becomes very, very frustrating,” Yvon Provencher, of the Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Montréal métropolitain (RAAMM), told Global News.

In an email to Global News, Karl Littler, the Senior VP, Public Affairs at the Retail Council of Canada wrote, “Several members of our team have been quite engaged with access (physical and virtual) for people with disabilities.”

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Provencher says Quebec has existing laws to help people with disabilities to shop online but the legislation lacks sanctions against retailers and is weaker compared to similar laws in other provinces.

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“We’re far from that here so there has to be improvements in terms of legislation,” he said.

Jarry and others just hope the grocery stores will make the changes so that their online shopping experience will be as easy as a few clicks away.

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