With a family of six to feed, clothe and keep healthy, we visit the local supermarket, natural food grocer or Wal-Mart about four times a week on average. These kids go through gallons of milk, bagels, bananas, and Nutella at a pace that has to be seen to be believed. I often go along with my wife to keep her company and give her moral support. In fact, we have had numerous date nights wandering the aisles. Unfortunately, these places are not well-designed for people with a visual impairment, although some do better than others.
One of my biggest issues is with the aisles themselves. Are they wide enough to get through without running into other shoppers or the items on the shelves? And if they are nice and wide, the stores will put random product displays that jut out into the aisle which I will inevitably clip with my hip, shoulder or basket, when she lets me push it. Knocking stuff off these displays is embarrassing and could lead to damaged products or a mess on the floor. The easy fix is to use the shelves and end caps and not encroach into the aisle but capitalism and marketing reign supreme. Finding the right aisle is also an issue. The signs above the aisle that provide a list of items in that particular row have gotten smaller and harder to read if they even have the signs at all.
Safely navigating a supermarket is an adventure all on its own. Crossing from one aisle to another is like being the frog in the classic videogame Frogger. Look left, then right, then left again and make a mad dash for it. Potential collisions with other shoppers and their carts lurk around every corner.
And then we have the single biggest issue with most every retail establishment. The lack of easily legible price tags and stickers. My pocket magnifier makes a regular appearance in my hand to read the prices, in order to be helpful to my shopping date. It is not terribly dignified to be looking through a magnifier while standing two inches away from the shelves.
This is not to even mention parking lots that are not very well lit and overly narrow check out aisles. I freely acknowledge that these issues are not unique to grocery stores. Clothes shopping is a nightmare best saved for another post. Fixing these issues or even providing improvements would help not only those with visual disabilities but also those who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters to make their way through the store. In the meantime, we will just continue to do our best. Keep an eye out for us because we may not see you first.