Accessibility in Clothes Shopping

Clothes stores could be a lot more accessible. First, the physical stores… I can’t really comment on that since the only stores selling clothes that I visit physically are mostly sports stores. They are accessible to me if I can catch a ride there. Probably somewhat accessible for those who need wheelchairs or have a reduced mobility as well.

My clothes store accessibility is related to online stores. Those are obviously more accessible for people who don’t drive, or just don’t have a lot of selection of the styles they like close to where they live.

And online stores selling clothes have a lot to improve.

First, make it work with a screenreader and just a keyboard. Yes, dear Clothes Retailer or Boutique, people who don’t use mice or screens with their computers also want to look pretty. People with all sorts of needs – low vision being a surprisingly common one – want to find pretty things.

Second, make it easy to use. If you don’t want to think full blind here, think of it for low vision. You arrive to the site. Where is everything? How is everything organized? Where is the search? Make it very clean to browse. Make the search work. Label things, including styles, materials, lengths, colors.

Don’t rely on your users ability to look at the pictures. Good pictures of the products are great, and make them zoomable, but please also add descriptions. I’ll gladly ask someone’s opinion about how something might look on me, but I’d also like to read about the product. What kind of fabric is it made of? Is it thin or thick? Is it soft? Stretch or non stretch? What are the exact sizes of this shirt or skirt? What colors are available? A big annoyance is when colors are not described. There is the dress you want, and there are some buttons that have some kind of color or pattern, but there is no name. Is that dark color blue, gray, green, black, brown or purple? Is that other color white or neon green? Oh, I can’t always tell from the picture because guess what, white and neon green can look identical, and I can’t tell blue from black. So please use text to describe and select the color. If it’s a fancy color, describe it even better. Blue; what kind of blue? A midnight blue that looks like black to me? A bright blue? A baby blue? Caribbean blue? Describe it, but keep it simple. I have no clue what periwinkle or dove are supposed to look like. Hunter’s green apparently looks like black, since a color ID app I used on my phone pointing at my cats identified them as hunter’s green.

So, we got the site accessibility, a pretty design that is clean, good descriptions of the garments, text size that can be increased to users’ tastes, and specified size details, detailed colors, and the materials. Good so far. Then just make purchasing easy. Log in, or buy without logging in. Give me a way to verify my cart: this page too should be accessible. This is the page where I want to have in text all the details of what I’m buying. Dress, M, dark gray, long sleeves, $39,90, shirt, cotton, M, short sleeves, white, $19,90 and so on. Total $xx,xx. Proceed, cancel, change quantities, remove items, save cart for later. From there on it’s like on any store’s shopping cart.

You’d think it should be easy by now to have the basics done right.

Or maybe I just notice accessibility when it works for me, and get angry when it doesn’t work. I get frustrated when I want to buy a nail polish and have no kind of description of the color. Or when I want to get a shirt that has no useful size or material description. So I leave the site. I want to know for any item that has print or text, what is in the pictures and what does the text say.

Those are all minor details. Maybe if the clothes stores hired more consultants with visual or other issues the details could get better faster. Even most major retailers seem to not get why the color labels or details about exact size matter. It really should not be that hard.



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