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SELF-CHECKOUT RE-DESIGN Today’s self-checkout system does not facilitate the buying and checkout process entirely as it was originally intended to do so. The following is an analysis and research 2explanation of the re-design process of this system with the goal of designing for people of all abilities in mind. ALL ORIGINAL IMAGERY AND COPY BY MIKAYLA GIGANDET 2018

“ When we design

for disability first, you often stumble upon solutions that are better than those when we design for the norm.” Elise Roy, TED Talk 2016


I believe in design for disability, because with this, we can arrive at brilliant new solutions that are beneficial for a society as a whole. This project was assigned my fall semester of my senior year in college in 2017 and revisited and revised by myself in my spring semester of senior year in 2018. At first overwhelming, the research, collaboration, and design, came together in what I believe to be a successful solution to a system that is largely overlooked. In this booklet, I will explain me and my partner’s research, thought, and design process in creating a universal self-checkout system to be used in a grocery or general

merchandise store. Most importantly, designing for those with disability in mind. Disability refers to a physical or mental impairment that inhibits a person’s active, motor, and sensory capabilities. If someone is disabled, they may find difficulty accessing systems that were designed without the consideration of someone whose condition restrains their actions and range of motion. Accessibility refers to a characteristic of a system, place or product that makes it possible for people of all capabilities to use. With accessibility in mind, a system may even be the most successful to use no matter the target audience.


y field-research took place at a Walmart as well as a Home Depot located in High Point, NC where my partner and I we observed customers interact with the self-checkout machines for an hour. What we found that most important to note were the physical characteristics of the machine itself. Firstly, the height of the self-checkout scanner and interface could prove to be difficult for individuals in wheelchairs or those whom are vertically challenged. Secondly, the limited number of languages available on the interface is solely limited to English and Spanish. Additionally noted, the volume was faint, however, when a customer error occurred, an alarm sounded asking the customer to wait for assistance paired with a flashing red light lit above the machine. Finally, the current system did not have brail on the interface. In addition, I interviewed the attendant on duty that was responsible for overseeing the machines. She explained, although these are self-service machines, customers still expect her to do

the scanning for them. There was a screen for her where she could see machines that need assistance, noted that mostly elderly persons needed assistance in her experience. She mentioned the cameras that oversee the checkout area however, “theft is a huge problem� she stated. In conclusion, the self-checkout system at Home Depot could definitely be re-designed to be more accessible. By doing so, this would create better experiences for the customers as well as the attendant.

PICTURED TOP LEFT Home Depot self-checkout station with item shelf, scanning, and bagging area. PICTURED TOP RIGHT Home Depot checkout attendant helps customer scan larger items in their cart.

PICTURED BELOW Walmart self-Checkout item shelf, scanning, and bagging area.


PICTURED LEFT Walmart chargeable motorized grocery cart.


elf-checkout scanners are specifically implemented to help streamline the checkout process. This gives the opportunity for customers with few items to independently handle their bagging and payment process. Specifically, these machines may be problematic for those who have a disability. The re-design of this machine was focused on, but not limited to the following individuals: • Handicap • Shorter than average people • Blind and/or colorblind • Deaf and/or hearing impaired • Those without disabilities • People who are autistic, • Those who have cerebral palsy • Those with mental retardation • Elderly Persons • People who are Illiterate The physical focus area of the re-design project was on: • Size of machines’ interface • Size of checkout area • Height of monitor • Readability / Color Scheme • Efficiency/ speed


• Self-sufficiency capabilities • Bagging Area size and process During the re-design process, it became apparent to me that self-checkout machines have external factors that could affect its design. These factors can include the shopping cart design, the demographics of people who are shopping, the behavior of how they shop, the size of the items being purchased, and placing items into baskets or bags. In order to not stray away from the goal of the project, my team and I focused on the self-checkout system’s design rather than the design of an entire store’s system. Over all, the challenge was finalizing a realistic solution that considered all internal and external factors.

PICTURED BELOW Woman at Home Depot stands next to self-checkout to show height of bagging area platform height.

PICTURED ABOVE Self-checkout sketch of cart pulled into a designated area where the items are scanned overhead. The payment area and screen are drawn in front.


n the fall of 2017 I announced to my class my vision for a design that the items could scan themselves so that there was no human interference. This way little room for error could occur if the machine was doing all the work of scanning each individual item. In the cart scanner idea design, the standard stores’ grocery cart would pull into a designated area and lock into a space with barriers on each side. Next, it would greet the customer and explain that their items were to be scanned for purchase and to please wait patiently. A large scanner would shine down on the grocery items in the cart and move horizontally overhead to sweep across all the objects’ barcodes in the cart. All the items

scanned would show up on a display screen automatically and create a total. Underneath the machine would be table-style with legs to create space for a wheelchair to pull up and close enough underneath. The card reader, bill insert, change insert, and touchscreen display would all be at the same height with consideration to the height of someone who is in a wheelchair or mobile chair. This way, the process of taking items in and out of the cart and any human interaction with self-scanning is obsolete. It also minimizes human error when self-scanning and missing an item or ringing it up more than one time.

PICTURED TOP RIGHT Self-checkout sketch of overhead item scanner that moves back and forth. The screen and payment interface would be at the same area. There is space underneath for a wheelchair to pull up to the screen.

PICTURED BELOW Walmart self-checkout area with keypad and hand-held scanner used for items that may be too large or heavy to remove from cart.


PICTURED TOP LEFT Walmart vegetable produce shelves. PICTURED TOP RIGHT Walmart bag dispenser and produce scale in front of the banana section.


n a more refined design here, a customer will pull up alongside the machine with a cart of items and a bumper will be extended from the end of the machine to hold the cart in place. Ideally, the shopper will be putting their items into reusable bags that they have brought from home. The intention here was for the customer to have little interaction with the items in the cart during scanning and have bagging at the highest level of convenience. When the item scanning and payment is done, the shopper would push their cart through the self-checkout and process to exit the store. Additionally, in a grocery store with this self-checkout, a system


will be implemented where you can weigh the produce on scales in the produce section and enter a code for the type of that is shown on its display. A sticker with a barcode and price that is based on its weight will be printed to put on the produce bags used. This allows the self-checkout cart-scanner to read a barcode during checkout instead of having the customer look up codes on the interface.

PICTURED ABOVE Overhead self-checkout sketch of customer with cart pulled up to door. The interface and payment area is to the left of the customer.

PICTURED LEFT Home Depot self-checkout station, one of four in the store. The screen height and lack of room underneath makes it inaccessible for those in wheelchairs. In addition, the position of the candy shelves subtracts from the amount of shelf room for consumers to put their merchandise.

PICTURED BELOW A. Walmart shopping carts in the entryway of the store. B. Walmart fruit on display with individual prices.


lthough this design has not been implemented in stores today, it is important to recognize that not all self-checkout systems are accessible to everyone. The objective of this project was to design for those with disabilities in mind. Other systems to consider re-designing would be a store’s layout, cart design, and merchandising. Through this project, I have learned to look objectively at the design of systems around me. I will consistently ask questions such as “Is this design accessible?” and “Why did the designer choose to implement this system in this way?”. In conclusion, there are several factors that influence the efficiency of a self-checkout as well as the design of systems and products consumers interact with in their daily lives.




Self-Checkout Re-Design  
Self-Checkout Re-Design  

The self-checkout system may not facilitate the buying and checkout process entirely as it was originally intended to do so. The following i...