Blind leading the blind
Blind and visually impaired people have difficulties in doing everyday tasks. Transportation, dealing with official matters or even to do a simple shopping can be problem. The Association of Blind and Visually Impaired in Csongrád has launched an initiative to help visually impaired people in shopping.
They created an objective rating system under the “Blind Friendly” project by assessing 80 shops in Csongrád county. Within this system they evaluate how usable the stores are for visually-impaired people. They list the physical barriers: whether the prices’ typo has contrast, whether there is an info desk at the entrance, whether you can enter the store with a guide dog, etc. The most important aspect of the survey is to assess personal assistance as without the help of the salesmen it is almost impossible to find something in a bigger store. It is a real nightmare for a blind, partially sighted or visually impaired person to buy basic groceries. They don’t see the goods, the clerks don’t always help them and guide dogs are often not allowed to enter the shop.
The 14 assessors are all visually impaired people and were chosen from a wide age group. Their training period has ended, and they experienced several problems during the test purchases. Only a few clerks are working in most shops and they are not prepared to provide fast assistance to people living with disabilities. Human accessibility has to be greatly developed, however, personal relationships and supporting each other should be basic human qualities. The shops have not always been very open towards the topic, but the project received positive feedbacks in its direct environment, too.
The power of cooperation is priceless even if it is started in a smaller scale. Within this initiative the most important now is to create an online database where you can clearly see which shops have appropriate conditions for blind people, where they can easily buy basic groceries and goods. The rating certificate reduces the vulnerability of visually impaired people, it raises consumer-security in material, informational and moral terms as well. From vulnerable visually impaired persons they become equal consumers with equal consumer rights.
Proper partnership and cooperation with the stores is essential. The shops which don’t comply with the qualification system’s requirement receive recommendations and advice in the project and a conversation can be started about accessible shopping. The organizers plan to disseminate more information (through brochures, newsletter, conferences) among the member organizations through which they can learn about the achievements of the project. The qualification system can be further developed onto a regional and national level. Other disability or consumer groups can also build their own systems based on the model thus reducing the defenselessness of vulnerable communities.