Life hacks: Shopping
In London Vision’s Life hacks session on shopping, attendees outlined their advice for shopping as a blind or partially sighted person, including tips and tricks:
As with all activities, preparation is key. If you have a plan of how you are going to approach your activity it can certainly make a difference; Some of the areas you told us you plan:
- How you are to get to and from the shops.
- What you are shopping for – create a list.
- Phone ahead to book support.
- Consider shopping at different times – do you know the best time to go shopping to avoid everyone else?
- Research what support is available from the shop (or shops) you want to visit.
- Check you have got enough charge in your battery if using apps or technology to help you shop.
- How will you pay? Can you tell your cards apart? Have you organised your cash? (tips on using cash here)
- Do you need to label goods at the checkout -so you can store them at home with ease?
Canes and symbols of hidden disability
For close to a hundred years the white can has been the symbol of sight loss. Using a cane for the first time cane be nerve wracking and it’s useful to talk to someone from your sensory team on the best way to use a cane or someone who uses cane regularly who can explain that the feelings and worries you have are shared by others.
There are three types of cane available. A short cane known as a symbol cane which is used to let people know you have difficulty seeing. A guide cane which can be used to gather some information about your environment and finally the long cane which can be used in conjunction with training to locate clues and landmarks along a route.
A red and white cane be used to indicate that the user also has a hearing impairment or is deafblind. Canes can usually be provided by your sensory team. Most people who use canes will tell you that people give them a little more time, respect and the help they need when they are using them.
Both RNIB and the Partially Sighted Society sell lapel badges which indicate visual impairment
Over the last few years, the Sunflower Lanyard has become the symbol of hidden disability. Some supermarkets and train stations have supplies of sunflower lanyards. The lanyard can be used to clip a sunflower card to, which can give brief information as to type of assistance you may require. For full details of the sunflower scheme and information on how to print create cards for your lanyard.
Useful apps and technology
- Aira is a paid for service that allows you to connect to a qualified agent who can utilise your phone camera to let you know where you are, and what’s around you. Click here for more
- Be My Eyes connects you volunteers who can tell you what’s around you or what you are looking at. Click here for more
- Seeing AI is an app which works on Apple products using artificial intelligence to read printed text. Click here for more
- Google Lookout uses artificial intelligence to read text and identify products available on Android devices. Click here for more
- Super Sense can identify products and read texts working on Android and Apple phones. Click here for more
- Envision is an app (or glasses) that works on android apple products. Click here for more
- Supervision+ video magnifier app is a simple to use app which turns your smartphone into a video magnifier
Asking for help
Asking for help isn’t always easy. However, you told us that there are a few ways to make it a little easier.
- If you can, take a moment to explain that you don’t see very well and the help you need, because for many people it’s hard to understand.
- If you can, be bold, positive, and clear when asking for help
- Use phrases like ‘can you take me to’ or ‘please show me where, the peas are’ – this should prevent the need for you to search aisles
- Being polite can go a long way, as can a smile!
You can phone ahead and ask for assistance in larger stores or go the customer service desk on arrival or in smaller stores go to the till where you will find a member of staff. For people who need guiding, often pushing a shopping trolley with the guide leading the trolley is an extremely effective method. As the assistant, lifts the products from the shelves ask to handle the item to ensure it’s the size you are looking for and indeed the product.
You may have prepared a list from which you are shopping but ask the assistant to identify any special offers as you walk around the store or on the products you are looking to buy.
If you are shopping alone, pocket magnifiers or apps such as Be My Eyes or Aira can bring you real time support. AI apps such as Google Lookout, Seeing AI, or Envision can read texts or identify products. Your phone can also be used to identify products by using the onboard magnification feature or you may wish to add a magnification app such as Claromag X Visual Magnifier or Supervision+. Don’t forget you can use your video magnifier to look at items on the top shelf or at your feet. The torch on your phone is also a useful tool.
When buying fresh produce, take the opportunity to feel the texture and smell the produce to make a judgement on its ripeness. You might be looking to cook the item straight away on arrival at home or in a few days’ time. It can be a useful tactic to buy perishable or soft fruit and vegetable toward the end of your shop to help prevent crushing or damage.
Shopping for clothes
Manging Sight Loss course attendees told us that shopping with a trusted friend can be useful way of ensuring you get the clothes you desire. Another great way of getting advice is by using personal shoppers – larger department stores often have this service and we have heard positive testimony as to the effectiveness of this service.
A top tip is to explain you are blind or partially sighted when booking and ask for a double slot as you may take a little longer. Larger shopping malls such as Westfield have a concierge service which can ensure you can move from shop to shop easily.
Tips for buying clothes
- Take a friend or family member and if possible, create a social experience.
- Touch and feel the materials to ensure comfort.
- Ask if the clothes are displayed on a mannequin which can allow you to explore the hang and fit of the garment.
- Confirm the colours of clothing with the shop assistant. Apps and colour detectors are great but may not be accurate.
- Apps such as Be My Eyes or Aira could help, or you might simply video call a friend.
- Ask the assistant to read garment care instructions.
- Plan your shopping trip to coincide with quiet times in the shop
Managing money and payments
Take a look at London Vision’s Life hacks for using cash
We want to hear from you
If you have a tip that has made shopping easier for you, get in touch and we can share it across our networks. Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
Want more resources? Try these:
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Benefits of using technology
Click here for information about assistive and accessible tech that might be useful for people with sight loss.
Life hacks: kitchen
Check out this page for tips and tricks for the kitchen - including gadgets, contrast and lighting ideas and useful techniques.