This blind woman says self-checkouts lower the bar(code) for accessibility

If you have a visual impairment, the self-checkout phenomenon can make shopping a difficult and frustrating process.

Woman with visual impairment wants companies to consider people over electronics

Self-checkouts often feature touch screens and prompts that aren't accessible to people with visual impairments. (CBC)

Self-checkouts seem to be popping up everywhere in St. John's, from Walmart to Canadian Tire to Dominion, replacing cashier interaction with inanimate exchange.

Some people love the control and convenience; others prefer a face-to-face chat and fear the machines are taking away minimum-wage jobs.

Then, there are the people totally left out of these contrasting takes, because they physically cannot navigate them at all.

One of those individuals is Kelly Picco, a St. John's resident who has optic atrophy, a progressive condition that has left her legally blind. When she shops, it's usually with the assistance of a friend or family member, but the growing prevalence of self-checkouts has her concerned about what could happen in the future on the occasions when she faces aisles alone.

"I'm afraid that, eventually, there's not going to be enough people working in these retail stores like Walmart to help me get my groceries or supplies checked out," she said.

Kelly Picco, seen here with her guide dog Maple, worries that companies installing self-checkouts aren't considering accessibility in their designs. (CNIB NL/Facebook)

Beeps and barcodes

Picco attempted to check out her own groceries at a Dominion in St. John's with CBC Radio's On The Go along, and ran into roadblocks almost from the start.

"I'm getting ready to check out a pack of Jam Jams, and I have no idea where the barcode is to, to scan it on the self-checkouts," she said.

There has to be more considerations given when it comes to putting electronic things in stores, over actual people.- Kelly Picco

She had another problem after beeping them in.

"I don't know how much they are, and I can't see the screen," she said.

Ultimately, there 's no independence for Picco at a self-checkout.

"I would simply have to ask them to help me through the entire process. And it's not so bad when you have one or two items, but when you have a cartful of groceries, it's going to be challenging," she said.

"There is always an option for our customers to either have a staff member assist them there, or at a traditional checkout lane," said Loblaw Companies, the parent company of Dominion, in a statement to CBC News.

"We strive to offer our customers a pleasant and convenient shopping experience every time they visit us."

But Picco wonders what will happen in the future with the trend.

"They have to consider that there are people in this world, in society, that aren't able to use these self-checkouts," she said.

"There has to be more considerations given when it comes to putting electronic things in stores, over actual people."

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Jill Power

Associate producer

Jill is an associate producer and contributor for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.