In what is believed to be a world first, Woolworths has unveiled an accessible checkout, designed specifically for team members living with a physical disability, including people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids such as walkers.
The first groceries were scanned at the innovative checkout this week at the opening of Woolworths’ new Kellyville Grove store in Sydney.
Woolworths has utilised inclusive design principles to create the wheelchair accessible checkout from scratch in consultation with the Centre for Inclusive Design and Mills Group, adapting it to feedback from people with disability to meet their varying needs.
Traditional checkouts pose a number of barriers to team members who use wheelchairs due to their height and the lack of space for a wheelchair to slide underneath the conveyor belt so the operator can easily scan groceries.
The new first-of-its-kind accessible checkout includes a range of features to ensure team members who use a wheelchair can comfortably and safely serve customers:
adjustable height with space for a wheelchair to fit under the conveyor belt
a narrower conveyor belt so team members can easily reach all groceries from a seated position
a rotating bag transfer so that once a team member has packed a customer’s bag they simply spin the panel to rotate it towards the customer and send it down a gentle slope to the bag collection space, avoiding heaving lifting and reaching
a pull drawer so receipt paper can easily be refilled without reaching over, while keeping the receipt dispenser close to customers.
Woolworths has developed the checkout to create new employment opportunities for people who use a wheelchair or live with other physical disabilities, already recruiting several new team members to its Kellyville Grove store and its new North Parramatta store, which will also open with an accessible checkout next week.
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New team member, Johnson Chen cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Kellyville Grove store on Wednesday, before beginning his first shift on the accessible checkout. Johnson, who is studying computer science, will work at the store during university holidays and around his classes during the semester.
Johnson said: “I was part of the group who helped test out the prototype checkout and it was great to see my feedback incorporated in the final design to make it better. After testing the checkout, I asked how I could apply for a job - it’s quite cool that now I get to work with something I helped design. I’m looking forward to interacting with customers and spending my uni holidays more productively now that I’m working at Woolies!”
Another new team member Janine Jago has taken the opportunity to work part-time now that her children have finished school and are more independent, utilising her customer service skills from her experience working for a bank prior to becoming a mother.
Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director, Natalie Davis said: “We strongly believe that our team should represent the diverse community they serve, and the onus is on us to create more accessible jobs. While we’re always striving to provide opportunities for diverse team members, the reality is that until now there have been real physical barriers to people who use wheelchairs working in many retail spaces.
“We searched globally for an accessible checkout that we could bring to Australia for our team, and when we couldn’t find one out there, we were committed to creating it ourselves. We are thrilled to be unveiling this new first-of-its-kind accessible checkout because we know it will also open up first-of-their-kind opportunities for wheelchair users to be part of our store checkout teams. We are continuously looking to learn and challenge ourselves, to create a more inclusive workplace.”
Centre for Inclusive Design CEO, Dr Manisha Amin said: “People with lived experience were involved in trialing and designing the checkouts. It’s a terrific example of designing with, not for, people.”
The accessible checkouts at Kellyville Grove and North Parramatta will form part of a pilot from which Woolworths will gather feedback, and consider opportunities to introduce them to additional stores to create more employment opportunities for people with disability. Woolworths has filed a provisional patent application with the Australian Patents office to maintain quality, safety and human-centred design.