3 Fun Ways to Go Clothes Shopping Alone with Low Vision

Woman with white cane and glass sculpture
Harry Williamson/Spring Studio

If retail therapy is your thing and you are new to being visually impaired and think you need to wait for a sighted friend to take you clothes shopping or gift hunting,  I’m delighted to reassure you: it’s fun and easy, even as sight fades.

I do it all the time – oops, let’s just keep that our little secret!

The thing about living with a disability such as being visually impaired is that for the majority of the time we are seen in public, especially if using a white cane or guide dog.

This raises two options: we can either educate those we meet in a friendly and helpful manner or remain silent and be annoyed by their sometimes awkward assistance.

Personally, I prefer to be open to questions and also be light-hearted when introducing the concept of being a sighted guide.

There is no better time than when one is doing retail therapy to help dispel certain myths surrounding being visually impaired. Just keep in mind that sighted shop people really do want to help but may need a reminder that:

  • You are happy cruising their store on your own and they are not required to hover.
  • Your hearing is fine and there is no need to speak louder due to your vision loss (unless you have a dual disability).
  • Feeling garments, shoes, gadgets  and gifts is your way of ‘seeing’ and doesn’t equate to wanting to buy them.
  • You may not see very well but are so familiar with their store you are content to keep browsing.
  • Or, you may have more vision than they realize and only need help if you request it.

These reminders may seem glaringly obvious to some but it is surprising how many times one is called upon to be an ambassador for the blind!

With all this said and done, here are some suggestions that can turn your retail therapy into a fun and rewarding experience all on your own for those with low vision.


3 Ways to Shop Alone with Vision Loss

1: Allowing Extra Time

When venturing out alone on a shopping mission, the best tip I can suggest is allowing plenty of time. Become familiar with a local shopping precinct by taking time to familiarize yourself with  your surroundings.

Orientate your senses to certain checkpoints so you can find the places each time you visit. For example, I like to use  stores that are outdoors so I can either see the shop fronts more easily or detect certain stores by their scent as I pass by. I remember that the German bakery is right next door to the gift store, the florist is 2 doors from the news agency and the $2 shop, with the scent of cheap candles, guides me to the shoe shop next door.

Each time you visit, you not only get to know where things are fairly automatically, but, by frequenting the same stores, shop attendants get to know you over time and are more likely to understand your methods of browsing in their store.

2: Visualizing Your Goal

There is a fascinating thing that happens when you decide to visualize in your mind’s eye what it is you are shopping for exactly. It can appear in your hands, sometimes falling off a clothes hanger to grab your attention, or you may be searching for a particular gift and your hands glide straight onto an even better gift idea.

This happens to me constantly (even when shopping with friends) where the perfect object ends up either falling into my hands or, after describing it to someone else, they are able to locate it in their store.

3: Using Intuition as Your Guide

Then there are times when you just want to browse, with nothing particular in mind. These delicious moments make retail therapy a real pleasure because you can go with the flow. Listen to your intuition and see where it guides you.

Want to check out a new store? Venture to a different outdoor market or shopping mall? Go for it! Intuition will gently urge you in certain ways that can lead to ‘magical’ moments you hadn’t planned.

The main thing to remember about shopping on your own if you are visually impaired is to prepare yourself before you set off. Take your time, browse and explore, ask for assistance if you need it, and follow your intuition and sense of play.

All this can really make retail shopping a treat for the senses.

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