4 Bright Ways to Light up Christmas for a Shopper with Low Vision

An unexpected helper in Federation Square
An unexpected helper in Federation Square. Harry Williamson/Spring Studio

It is definitely beginning to feel like Christmas. If you work in a retail store, the chances are you are flat out helping your customers have a positive retail experience.

But are you prepared for a customer with a visual impairment who might also come seeking gifts during the festive season?

Are you aware of the best ways to be a sighted guide and to know how to deal with the challenge of describing items to a person who can’t see?

Let me help you here.

As a shopper with a visual-impairment, I’ve been caught in many awkward situations in a retail store even when it hasn’t been the ’silly’ season. Sometimes people think they are helping me when they are creating an ‘incident’ by not realising how their unskilled techniques are disempowering me as their visually-impaired customer.

The Spanish have a great saying for this sort of situation where someone genuinely tries to assist another person but, instead, unknowingly makes matters worse: “Ayudar a caer” (To help someone  – to fall over. A bit like the image of helping an elderly person to cross the road when they hadn’t asked to get to the other sidewalk.)

Like me, people appreciate receiving sighted help but it can be hard to smile at times like these, when one feels they are being treated like a delinquent!

Here are some highly effective ways when needing to add that extra sparkle at Christmas time and smooth out transactions between you as a sighted assistant and your customer with low vision.

Light up Christmas for a Shopper with Low Vision

4: The Best Advice is Your Honest Opinion

If your customer with low vision tries on a garment or is not sure about an item in your store and asks for your honest opinion, please be up front.

It is kinder to offer a better suggestion and risk losing a sale than remain silent and allow your customer to learn later from friends and family that the garment looks awful.

3: Be Descriptive & Colorful

Don’t shy away from describing colors. When shopping for clothing and Manchester, we too have an idea of what we like and the colors we prefer.

All you really need to remember is that people with low vision use other ways to see. Some of us rely on high contrast and touching items to complete a picture of it in our mind’s eye

Try not to feel awkward talking about colors or using visual words like see and look, these are natural and it would be worse trying to avoid them.

2: Transaction Time

When dealing with cash transactions, it is very helpful to count out change so that your customer with low vision knows exactly what is in their hand.

Observe what happens next.

They will need a few more moments of time beside the counter to place coins and notes in specific places in their wallet or purse to find next time. I’m not suggesting you take notice of their actual money but rather the fact that this extra time is required before they can move on to complete the transaction to their satisfaction.

1: Speak Directly

Above all, the most helpful thing you can do for your customer with a visual impairment, especially if they are shopping with a sighted friend, is to direct your questions straight to the customer.

Nothing is more upsetting than when a retail assistant, thinking it easier to find out the answer, talks over the top of the person with low vision and asks their friend instead, “Does she like this?” No….the answer is, she most definitely does not!

Approaching your customers in this way will spread a little magical light to brighten up the experience for everyone.

Don’t forget, you can also read my previous post, 5 Ways to Boost Your Popularity When Assisting a Blind Customer.

These tips highlight more ways of being sensitively helpful throughout the whole year!

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