Assistance in a Grocery Store

April 17, 2010

A person with a vision impairment depends on their sense of hearing, smell and touch to gather the information they need to do their shopping. These senses alone are often not enough to get the job done and additional assistance is often required. Close your eyes and attempt to positively identify three different kinds of canned soup. This will give you a little idea of the perspective that a vision impaired person has in the grocery store.

The good news is that, with a very small effort on the part of the grocery store management and staff, the frustration of identifying those three different kinds of canned soup, and many other frustrations can be eliminated. Store management and staff have the ability to turn a negative, frustrating shopping experience into a positive experience for not only a person with a vision impairment, but also for staff and other customers. You can make the difference by offering shopper's assistance to people whose vision is poor enough that they cannot identify those cans of soup.

You will not be alone in your effort to make a positive difference in the life of a person with a vision impairment. Across the nation and in the State of Maine there are a host of professionals who are ready and willing to help. Orientation & Mobility Specialist (O&M) and Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (VRT) are two professionals that work with vision impaired people. Unlike the doctor who works with the medical aspects of a vision impairment, these professionals work with the functional, day‑to‑day skills necessary for the vision impaired person to lead an independent life. An important part of this work is teaching the vision impaired person how to access community services such as using public transportation and grocery shopping.

In grocery shopping, the Orientation & Mobility Specialist and the Vision Rehabilitation Therapist would teach their vision impaired student to locate the customer service desk or a store employee , introduce themselves and ask for some assistance shopping. It is at this point that you have the opportunity to make a big difference in someone's life. You can make sure that your customer has a person to help them find the items they need and with a small effort, it can be a positive experience for you and your customer.

We are fortunate to live in Maine, "Where life is the way it should be", where neighbors help neighbors and where we have a strong sense of community and cooperation. You can proudly take your part and help someone with a vision impairment find the items on their grocery list. The U. S. Congress also recognized the needs and rights of people with disabilities when it passed the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title H I of the ADA requires places of public accommodation to make their goods and services accessible to people with disabilities and this means providing personal assistance for people who need that level of accommodation.  Information on the ADA is available on the internet at www.ada.gov or by telephone at 1‑800 514­-0301. You can talk to an Orientation & Mobility Specialist or a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist by calling the Iris Network at 1-800-715-0097.  One of these professionals will be able to help you develop shopper's assistance policies for working with customers who are vision impaired.

Another benefit of helping someone find that can of soup is that one or two pleasant shopping experiences will develop a new, very loyal customer.

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