From online to offline, accessibility is about the whole customer experience | Ayodeji Oyebade
We spoke to Ayodeji Oyebade, known to his friends as “Ayo”. A lifelong charity volunteer and local celebrity in his North London community. We asked him about which technology he relies on and the online services which are essential to him.
He says the delivery stage is where companies let disabled customers, like him, down the most.
Access to technology a “lifeline” for people who are housebound
Ayo is a well-known member of his local community, having worked as a charity director for Islington Mind and trustee for local charities throughout his life. In his time, he has also been presented to the Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Diana for his charity work.
Due to his long-term disability and poor health, he is currently housebound awaiting kidney surgery. We spoke to him about the technology and online services that help, and hinder, him in his daily life.
Ayo uses a range of technology in his day to day life that allows him to live more independently. He has two Amazon Echo Dots, one in the bedroom and one in the living room where he spends most days. He has an Amazon Fire 7 tablet, Samsung Galaxy tablet and Samsung smartphone.
“I haven’t left the house in three and a half months. The only place I’ve been to is the hospital.” Says Ayo. “The Echo Dot is an integral part of my life now,” he adds, and for entertainment, “I listen to BBC World Service, Magic Chilled, I listen to some Lata Mangeshkar Bollywood music.”
Beyond entertainment, most of Ayo’s time on the internet is centred around responding to emails and online shopping. Though he stresses “It’s not leisure-time shopping, just for the sake of it. These are essential items I need to purchase.”
Online companies and poor customer service for disabled customers
For a service to be accessible, the whole customer journey needs to be taken into account. While a business can have a fully WCAG compliant website, if its delivery drivers are not trained to help customers with access needs, the customer journey itself cannot be called accessible.
And if disabled customers are forced to spend more time, money and effort to achieve the same outcome, it cannot be considered equal access.
He uses Amazon as an example. Despite being a regular customer, Ayo constantly reminds them to deliver to a separate entrance with every order, which is often forgotten.
“Because of my physical disabilities, I’ve got a handrail leading down the flat to the front door. When I walk to the front door I experience a great deal of physical pain.”
“I’ve tried to explain this to Amazon over the phone several times and they say I’ve got to change the delivery address, but of course it’s the same address. I just need them to use a different entrance. There’s no room on the online form to put all that.”
“Several times they’ve walked off with my parcels. I’ve had to ring Amazon back, and they’ve said they’ll deliver it tomorrow. Like I said, these are essential items.”
There’s legislation that says ‘your websites, apps, products and services must be accessible’ but the rules are not implemented or enforced.
For Ayo, abandoning Amazon is not an option. Amazon’s wide range of affordable, specialist products make them preferable to other online retailers, especially since his disability benefits were cut.
“I’ve got no choice” he says, “I’m on a low income, I can’t afford to shop anywhere else. I have to live within my means.”
What good customer experience looks like
From online ordering through to delivery, accessibility is about the whole customer journey.
Ordering groceries online
For other companies, small gestures go a long way. Sometime one phone call to customer services is all it takes to update his delivery instructions. For Ayo, it makes all the difference. He praises companies like John Lewis for their excellent customer experience from ordering online to delivery.
“I shop online with John Lewis, I’ve got the John Lewis & Partners app. And I shop with them about once a month. They’re good. They will come to this entrance. The app is very easy to use.”
For others, like online grocery provider Ocado, he says “it’s the simplest little things” like unpacking his groceries that make a difference. “Ocado will come upstairs, put the food in the kitchen, empty the bags, put everything in the cupboards and the fridge, then takeaway the bags to recycle them.”
“Royal Mail have been excellent too. I asked them if they could please update the delivery office notes saying that I’m disabled, and to knock and wait. I only had to tell them once.”
“Argos have been great too. I spoke to a lovely lady on the phone explaining that I’ve got mobility problems, that I’d fallen ill, and that the microwave is essential to my cooking food because of it.”
“They installed the new microwave, they set the timer, plugged it into the power, they packed the old microwave and took it away. It was only a text message sent to the delivery driver. A very comprehensive text that explained what they had to do.”
“Barclays are an excellent bank for disabled people” he says, “they sent a member of their staff around to my house to help me open a current account when I was first housebound.”
“Barclays have also told me that if ever my sight fails I can get things in large print, braille, talking statements. They’ve done loads for me. They even have video banking. You can speak to someone live, 24 hours a day. It’s fantastic”
“I try to mind my manners. And when I get good service, I acknowledge it.”
Disabled customers are the ones who end up paying
“When I experience those barriers online, I normally tell companies and the reception is good. I’m also involved in Disability Action Islington, that’s why I feel empowered to say it. And if I do have problems I can always go to them and they’ll help me.”
“It’s been a long time and I’ve had to fight for change. Write letters, after letters, after letters, send emails, make phone calls. I’ve had to really fight for it. It took a lot of energy to get where I am now. The number of hours spent writing letters. Sometimes I’d be up until three in the morning writing letters. I must have spent at least £15 on stamps.”
Companies like that need to be challenged. Why is their service for disabled people so poor and unreliable?
“The problem is, there’s no ombudsmen like Ofcom or Ofgem. There’s the Disability Rights Commission, but they seem ineffective. We’ve got the Equality Act now, but I’ve had to remind companies and organisations about the Equality Act.”
“There’s legislation that says ‘your websites, apps, products and services must be accessible’, but they’re not implemented or enforced. Look how many generations disabled people have suffered for. Disabled people have been fighting for their rights to be heard for centuries.”
Scope’s research panel has 1,700 disabled people and parents of disabled children. This is a great way to test your products and services.