Lockers for unattended item pickup, storage, and drop-off have become a fairly common sight at grocery and retail stores, colleges, amusement parks, and various other venues. The setup typically includes a bank of lockers against a wall, with a touchscreen in the middle (or offset to one side) for user interaction. While these lockers are a relatively new category of unattended devices, their software and security function as kiosks. As such, locker kiosk accessibility falls into the category of unattended closed systems, self-service transaction machines, or kiosks, particularly when looking at how they can be made accessible and whether or not accessibility is required.
There is not just one type of locker kiosk design and deployment. The more popular version of a locker kiosk is the one used by Amazon for Amazon order pickup, but other pickup lockers may have refrigerated compartments or robotics that bring the item to a standard pickup window on the kiosk. Additionally, lockers can have different purposes and can be used for groceries, electronic items, and takeout food pickup, as well as buy online and pick up in-store scenarios.
Self-service lockers can be placed in many different locations. Some examples of verticals that use lockers include amusement parks, grocery stores, retail stores, and colleges. For example, lockers placed in amusement parks may be used for storing clothes, shoes, and phones while at the water park. Grocery lockers are available for picking up orders that are placed online. Another example is a phone charging locker, where a phone might be plugged in and left in the locker while it charges. Some warehouses or facilities also use charging lockers or rental lockers for disbursing items to employees in a regulated, trackable, and secure manner.
Locker Kiosk Accessibility
Regardless of the use case or purpose, it is important to consider whether or not these self-service pick-up lockers are accessible to users with disabilities. If the lockers are not, can they be made accessible?
TPGi has conducted usability testing for a variety of self-service locker clients. Below are some of the most common mistakes and opportunities for improvement, consistent across various use cases, hardware setups, and deployment scenarios.
Accessible Locker Kiosk Hardware
Let’s start with the hardware. Can a user in a wheelchair or with height differences reach every locker and the items within the locker? If the answer to this question is no, there are two options for improving accessibility. The first method is to make sure that every locker is at or below the height needed for a wheelchair user to access the inside of the locker. Another method would be to provide an option on the application to select “wheelchair accessible” locker placement. The people filling the order (or the automated locker selection system) would select a locker that is the appropriate height for that user.
Locker manufacturers must not only consider the layout of the lockers but the weight of the locker doors. Accessibility standards indicate a maximum allowable force to open or close the lockers.
Locker depth is also a consideration. Sometimes, the items in a locker are too far back for a user in a wheelchair or with height differences to retrieve the goods, bags, or items inside. The depth of the locker may need to be larger toward the back of the locker to fit the items, but the depth to retrieve the item must be within wheelchair reach. That exact measurement can be found within the relevant accessibility standards.
Building an accessible locker kiosk means including speakers or a headphone jack for users who are blind or have low vision. Braille labels on the kiosk locker (for finding the appropriate locker) and on the controls are also needed to provide accessibility for users who are blind. A tactile input device is also required to allow users with disabilities to interact with the kiosk when a touchscreen is not feasible.
Locker Kiosk Placement
Individual locker hardware specifications must meet the height, reach, and depth standards for operable parts, but locker accessibility goes beyond the physical structure of the lockers. The location of the interactive lockers must also meet accessibility standards and should be found in a location with ramp access and the ability to approach and maneuver using a wheelchair. Accessible placement may seem simple but is often overlooked when the locker is being placed in the real estate available.
Locker Kiosk Application
While hardware is a critical part of building an accessible kiosk, the software has an equally important role and must be built with consideration of how the hardware and software will function together. Building an accessible locker kiosk application includes following WCAG 2.1 or 2.2 best practices. In addition to following these standard software accessibility guidelines, locker kiosk applications should include additional features to assist users who are blind or have low vision as they interact with the locker.
For example, the software should include a verbal orientation to the lockers, allowing users to know where to find the locker in which their items are found. It should also include an audio description and introduction to the kiosk and any accessibility features, as well as general information as to how to operate the locker. The screen reader installed on the kiosk should launch upon insertion of headphones into the headphone jack and deactivate when the headphones are removed. In addition, the screen reader should convey instructions along the way as to how to proceed through the kiosk experience.
Regardless of use case, locker kiosks must be accessible and usable to people with disabilities. It is important to consider the hardware design of the lockers, the location of the lockers, and the locker software application in order to make the lockers accessible from start to finish. Without these accessibility features, locker kiosks will contain frustrating barriers for users with disabilities. Ironically, this group is the most likely to find that lockers provide a wonderful alternative to shopping in-store or for other important purposes and functions.
Need help with making sure your existing or future locker kiosks are accessible? Speak with an accessibility expert to discuss your locker kiosk project.