The Quiet Musings

Ordering Food Online, Still Lacking Accessibility

January 4th, 2021 //

I have written and talked about accessibility or the lack of it on food ordering websites and apps several times over the last two years. 2020 the year of lockdowns is the year of ordering food online and sadly enough these issues are still a factor.

Every time I place an order I have some minor stress hoping it will go flawlessly, that they won’t call me. I can’t relax until I have my food.

As a deaf person, it’s important that I can leave a note for the restaurant and the delivery person that I am deaf. That they should send me a text message instead of calling if there is something with my order or delivery.

Now almost all apps finally have this note option. But then the second fail is that the note is being ignored or looked over.

Most of the times an order will go without mistakes and they don’t need to contact me. Half of the times the delivery person will read the note and text me when they are here, even tho I have a doorbell warning system. But better a delivery person who reads the note and makes an effort than one that doesn’t.

But when it doesn’t go flawlessly it can be so frustrating that it sometimes can sour my day a bit. Every disabled person has experienced this, you have a bump due to inaccessibility and it will leave you feeling off for a couple of hours.

Real-life example

I placed an order through Uber Eats at a bakery for fresh bread and hummus. Right after I placed the order I got a call on my phone. I have been getting many robocalls these past months. I searched the number and it didn’t return any place. I assumed it was a robocall. It called twice.

In the Uber Eats app I have this in the notes text field.

Screenshot of Uber Eats note text field with my nite about being deaf and to text instead of calling.
“In case of, text me at 000. Text only because I’m deaf. Doorbell works.”

I know the delivery person can see his because they message me through the in app messenger if they need to contact me. But I have no idea if the restaurant can see this note on their end.

Hence when I got my order from the bakery, this note was included

Note from bakery that they are out of hummus and they gave me baba ghanoush instead. They tried calling me about it bit couldn't reach me.

Loosely translated; Sorry, but they are out of hummus, so they made me baba ghanoush (which is not on the menu). They tried calling me about it but they couldn’t reach me.

Now it’s not the worse and be end of it. But I would have like to have the chance to opt for something else. It wasn’t a cheap hummus, I could have opted for an extra sourdough bread. Or imagine this was dinner I ordered and they were out of what I chose and send me something else, something I’m allergic to or something I don’t like at all.

Basically, I would like to have the same chance and options as a hearing person who could have answered the phone.

It’s not just technology, but also awareness

What we see happening here is not only lack of in-app or website accessibility. It’s also a lack of awareness about accessibility from the people who use these services. Restaurant workers and a delivery person should be aware that clients can be deaf or blind. Hence it’s important to check the notes and follow them. I can already see the reactions on this statement: “They are already overworked and underpaid.” Probably yes, but why should disabled people have to bear the burden of that?

I would like to have the same chance and options as a hearing person who could have answered the phone.

For example, my last order was through Deliveroo. I put the same message in the note text field. The delivery person got here according to the tracker, then he tried calling me (from a non-mobile number) I answered and said: “I’m deaf, please text me”. He finally got to my door, apparently, the door intercom is broken (I didn’t know) so he couldn’t get into the building until someone downstairs opened. I told him I was deaf and that I put in the notes to text me. He checked his tiny Deliveroo tablet and confirmed the note says I’m deaf. But he didn’t process the fact that if he calls I can’t hear him. I had to explain it to him.

Result, both of us frustrated. He more than I because it was raining.

Why? Lack of awareness about accessibility. I’m sure delivery person who do this job get some sort of on the job guidelines. It would help if they add these kind of things to it for delivery and restaurants.

Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Thuisbezorgd should take up accessibility and also make restaurants and delivery persons aware of it. To read the notes in the system and on the recipes.

There are clients who are blind who need to use voice over to order, (D)deaf clients who can’t use the telephone, clients in a wheelchair who can’t just go downstairs in a jiffy to meet the delivery person. Just to sum up a few examples.

The ideal food ordering app

Has a text field for notes. With a high priority position on the admin (restaurant) side.

Has an in-app messenger like Uber Eats has for communicating with the delivery person. Would also be useful to have the same option for communicating with the restaurant.

The ideal food ordering app
1. Text field for notes
2. In-app messenger
3. Mobile phone number
4. Process and delivery tracker

Restaurants should use mobile numbers for texting option or email for contact. They already have a laptop or tablet setup for taking online orders so this shouldn’t be too hard to implement.

A tracker to follow the order and delivery, preferably with a map. (I can go downstairs to meet them when I see they are here if for example the building intercom system is broken like it is now.)

My personal preferred way to order

If the restaurant is in walking distance I prefer to order directly on their own website (some of them don’t have a note text field option) or Instagram Direct Message if they give me that option.

If I can’t order direct I order for pickup through the delivery app they promote the most. Some use several, some use only one.

If the place is too far for pickup or doesn’t offer pickup. I opt for Uber Eats first due to the in-app messenger with delivery. Or I use Thuisbezorgd as their delivery person tend to read the receipts with the note on it most often.

I only use Deliveroo if the restaurant is not on other delivery apps. Deliveroo is still my least favourite food ordering app. Maybe because they took so long to add the note text field on the website and they still don’t have it in the app.