How the leading big box retailer delivers better accessibility in bulk

Treating people equally is a core value for the global leader in big box retail, whether for their customers, staff, or partners. That’s why they’re not only adopting accessibility best practices but holding site vendors and integrators to the same standards of usability. The result? A more inclusive, usable web experience across of all providers and consistency for the end user: the buyer.

Setting the Standard

Mimicking brick and mortar retail online can be complex, let alone at the scale of big box stores. 15,000 web pages. 60 product vendors. Tile-style page layouts with much content injected directly by the manufacturers. The site is a myriad of moving products and promotions, often not directly owned by the organization. Yet, usability and compliance fall squarely on the seller, prompting the retailer to get proactive.

“We’re creating an environment where we, as the seller, champion better accessibility to our vendors and providers. As an industry-leading enterprise, we require a VPAT or other accessibility documentation as part of site partnership agreements and often recommend Level Access to new vendors,” says Jana Uhrich, accessibility expert of the leading big box retailer.

Together with Level Access, the company offers basic accessibility training to new vendors to help them meet the retailer’s content accessibility standards.

Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) icon
The retail giant requires a VPAT or
other accessibility documentation
from its partners.

Demonstrating Success

“It’s not enough to just champion accessibility; we need to model it ourselves.” Jana and her team of digital accessibility experts are embedded as about 20% of the company’s UX Design team. Divided across the corporate site, vendor sites, and integration providers, the team leverages Level Access products and services in combo with customer feedback channels to monitor the health and usability of the online experience.

“Our use case testing, AMP Accessibility Score, and automated scans—alongside accessibility-related comments from Customer Service, social, web, and app feedback—are blended together to depict the overall health of our accessibility program.” notes Uhrich. “But we treat use case results as the most important metric.” This hearty mix of testing, team training, and customer listening empowers the team with a real-world perspective on the user experience.

“Consulting with native assistive technology users about their needs and preferences is the most impactful part of working with Level Access,” says Jana. A prime example is the hero-banner carousel rotating promotional graphics on their site, each including product descriptions, expiration dates, links to buy, and promotional copy. “We turned to Level Access to test how long image descriptions should be to be useful without overwhelming users of assistive technology.” The results? “We learned that less is more! We no longer overload graphics with promotional details; we instead use cleaner visuals with short descriptors and links to landing pages for more information. That’s given us better usability for everyone with a more intuitive, pathway-driven site structure.” notes Uhrich. “We were unintentionally creating roadblocks that we’d never have caught without testing with users with disabilities.”

Jana Uhrich

“Level Access has allowed us to “shift left” with accessibility experts at the beginning of new projects, coding accessible solutions upfront instead of fixing issues later when it’s more expensive.”

Jana Uhrich | Digital Accessibility Analyst, leading big box retailer

Getting Real-World Results

“Overall, Level Access has allowed us to “shift left” with accessibility experts at the beginning of new projects, coding accessible solutions upfront instead of fixing issues later when it’s more expensive.” Jana and team not only validate accessibility themselves before advancing work into development but have also created an Accessibility Checklist to assist site designers. Their combined efforts have raised their AMP Accessibility Score from the 70s into the 90s! “Scores are critical to measuring progress and consistency, but our goal is to take care of our members and employees. A customer contacted Customer Service and raved “I made it through my entire online shopping experience without issues as a person with disabilities.” That’s how we measure success—by serving and satisfying everyone equally.”

“The insights we’ve gained from Level Access audits have helped us bring our products to a greater audience. We’ve become a more reliable shopping portal for our customers—including those who use assistive technologies.”