Strategies for Creating a Successful Supermarket Shopping Experience for Visually Impaired and Blind
1. First and foremost, be sure to follow Americans with Disabilities Act 1990/ADA (amended) accommodations and recommendations. These recommendations are important to the safety and accessibility of the visually impaired and blind individual. Be familiar with amended or updated ADA regulations.
2. Introduce yourself to your visually impaired or blind shopper. Maintain an attentive open line of communication to the specific individualized requests or concerns of your visually impaired and blind customers. The time you invest with your customer may result in suggestions that help maximize not only their shopping experience but improve the overall shopping experience for the general population. Inform visually impaired and blind customers of specific Braille labeled items in your store such as vending machines or ATM’s.
3. Many supermarkets already offer website or online shopping and delivery service. Be sure that your visually impaired and blind customers are aware of this option should they prefer this type of service. Having the ability to phone in shopping orders might be the right option for the individual who may not be connected through technology resources.
4. Inform visually impaired and blind shoppers if you currently offer weekly shopping circulars online. There are currently a variety of assistive computer technology screen readers or magnification programs available. These software programs offer auditory access, magnification, high- definition text and productivity tools allowing easy access to your weekly circular.
5. Your visually impaired or blind customer may not have access to technology. Getting to know your customer will help identify if they have a need for a large print or Braille copy of your weekly circular. Contact a Braille transcription service for professional transcription of your weekly circular into Braille format. Allow your Braille transcription service adequate time to complete Braille requests. Be sure that your visually impaired and blind customers have access to a large print or a Braille copy of your weekly sale circular prior to their visit if this is their preferred format. It is essential that your visually impaired and blind shopper have the same opportunity to preview weekly circular items so that they can adequately plan their shopping list with consideration of sales, promotions and specials prior to their store visit.
6. Smartphone applications are becoming readily available providing a wealth of information including identification of product labels, pricing and nutritional information. Discuss specific phone applications available at your store so that your visually impaired and blind shoppers can take advantage of these unique tools. Consider having a cell phone available at your store with your specific shopping applications for use by those individuals that may not have this technology available to them.
7. Take the time to provide some orientation to the shopping aisles. It may be helpful to briefly review selection of items offered on each aisle. Simple aisle orientation may be helpful to your visually impaired and blind shopper for planning of their shopping trip.
8. Offer the option of a supermarket shopping buddy. This option may be helpful especially when navigating the fruit/vegetable aisle (weighing items on regular print scale) and when navigating the cold cut department (which typically has cold cut listings behind the counter).
9. Consider providing an auditory scale for weighing produce. An auditory scale would most likely be helpful to many of your customers.
10. Why not offer an “accessible” checkout line to all individuals with a disability. This lane could offer a wider checkout lane for those in wheelchairs and individualized attention to notifying visually impaired and blind individuals of pricing details, coupons, and receipt coupons from their shopping order.
11. Provide the option of pre-ordering bulk butcher and cold cut orders upon arrival so that the order is ready to pick up when they pass by that particular food area.
12. Low vision shoppers will benefit from pricing labels presented in large print, bold text, using simple font with good contrast. Locate pricing information to the front of shelves opposed to up high or towards the back of the display.
13. Keep apprised on the newest assistive technology products available for the visually impaired and blind shopper. Be sure to advertise your accessibility and accommodations on your website. Be proactive in updating your visually impaired customers about your accessibility and general accommodation available at your store. Screen readers provide visually impaired and blind the ability to access information on your website. Cell phones continually improve over time offering new and improved functions along with shopping specific applications.