you can help us
In a shopping situation
where the person may be shopping, there are several ways you can
help (which may not be obvious to some, but may be very obvious
to others). Through past experience I
have encountered: "it's over there", "they're down in aisle 13",
"please sign this" and other sighted instructions. I say
sighted, because to a visually impaired person, these are not
specific enough for me to be able to acquire the goods I went
into the store to purchase! Also however, I acknowledge that if
I don't make the shop staff aware of my visual impairment, ask
them for help, or explain to them what help they can offer me,
then I may not get what I went in there for.
Here are some customer service tips...
Entering the restaurant
If you see a customer come in on their
own (who may for example have a white cane, guide dog, or a
visually impaired badge) and they are not sure where the counter
is, (if it's their first time), you may be able to assist if you
are able to give them some simple directions. These might be “the counter is in
front of you”, or “to your left or right” and let's say “about 5
meters” in whatever direction you have given them. You may also
be able to assist by asking “can
I help you?”.
At the counter and ordering
Once they are at the counter, (if they
are by themselves) something as simple as saying “you have come
to the Queeny Cafe” lets the
person know if they are in the right place or not. If
the customer has arrived at your shop by mistake, direct them to
the correct place using specific directions to that location if
possible. If the customer has intended to eat at the Queeny
Cafe, the next question would be “What would you like to eat?”. Give them a rough
description of what you have to
eat, as in most cases that person cannot see what is on
your menu let alone your prices. Asking them if they would like
hot food, cold food, or sandwiches etc. will narrow it down very
quickly. They usually have a good idea of what they want to eat.
Letting the person also know of the price of each item they have
selected, and a total, can help greatly.
Payment for purchases
Depending how the person pays (if say
by EFTPOS), having a tactile
keypad is great in most cases, especially the ones with
the dot on the number 5. Ask
your customer if they are familiar with the EFTPOS machine at
your shop. Here, a quick description
of the layout would be great. You might like to ask if you can
put the person's hand onto the machine, or you could give it to
them and say where the savings account button is (if required);
or just a quick description of the EFTPOS machine in general.
Eg. The ok button is on the bottom right. You need to remember
that not all EFTPOS machines are designed the same way as far as
layout goes. You could maybe, help the person to align their
fingers on the 4, 5 and 6 keys, (they will usually use their 3
middle fingers for this)... so that they can enter their pin
number by themselves. Remember also however, that some people
are quite independent and do not like to be helped. They should
be able to do the transaction once they know the layout of the
machine. It always pays to ask
the customer whether or
not they require assistance, and if so what type of
assistance is needed.
Directions to specific areas,
or guiding the customer to a table
If there is a spare table in your
shop, which in some cases people say “there is a spare table
over there” as they point towards the table; to someone like us
that means nothing. Where is over there? To a sighted person it
is easy to see where “there” is, but to a visually impaired
person, they cannot see where you are pointing.
So, that's why detailed directions are given.
Ask the visually impaired
person to follow you
(by saying I will get you to follow my voice as I take you to
your table). Keep talking
to the vision impaired customer from the shop counter to the
vacant table so that they can follow your lead. This is of great
help, rather than them trying to figure out which one is empty
to use and where the seat is. You may also like to ask them if you can place
their hand on the back of the seat so that they sit on the chair
the correct way.
Alternatively, the person may
prefer simply to be led to the chair, and find their own way of
Announcing delivery of the meal
to the table
When the food comes out and is put in
front of a person, telling your customer that their meal is in
front of them and using an
analogue clock face to describe where the placement of their
food items is, is great.
Eg. 12 o'clock is usually the
furthest away from the person; 6 o'clock is usually closest to
the visually impaired person; 3 o'clock is usually off to the
right of the plate, and 9 o'clock is usually off to their left.
Alerting them their meal is there, avoids surprising them.
Clock face directions
So, lets say in this situation you
bring the food to them and you have put the plate on the table
in front of them. You can then (if required) give them a description of what is on
their plate. “Your chips are
from 12 to 4 o'clock, your hamburger is from 4 to 8
o'clock and your salad is from 8 to 12 o'clock”. That would give
the visually impaired person a better idea of
the layout of their food.
Even telling them where the knives and forks, salt and their
drink are is usually greatly appreciated. This assists them to locate items faster and minimises the risk of knocking
Fonts and font size
In some cases, having the text size on
the menus on the table enlarged
to a size 12 or 14 can make a real difference to elderly people.
Even using a clear type font
like Arial can make it a lot easier for them to read.
You may need to remember not everyone out in the community has
good eyes to view your menu with, and some simple little steps
can make a real difference for some customers.
cases we may be looking for a shop, house or even an item in a
shop. Just by
following some simple tips,
you can make a huge difference.
Some examples are given
When looking for a specific
If the person is in the main street
(where the shops are based), and stops to ask for directions to
where he or she wants to go (wherever that may be) you can
assist them by being very specific
with directions (as discussed previously).
You could perhaps tell them
that the coffee shop they are looking for is 5 shops down to the
left and about 50m away (or if say across the road between the
paper shop and the butcher) 50m to the north of the pedestrian
crossing) giving them a rough idea of how far it is away from
them in metres. It would give them a better idea of where they
are location wise, to where the place is that want to go to.
Sometimes, if you have a little spare time or are heading in that direction (and
would like to) taking them to the shop is of great help.
When inside a shop looking for
a specific item
If the visually impaired person has
asked you for directions to a certain item in the shop, don't
just say its in aisle 13. Ask them to follow your voice to that aisle and take them
directly to the item. If they have a guide dog, ask the owner to
command the dog to follow you. Tell them the price of the item,
or even recommend similar
products (to what they are looking for) as this will
give them more choice.
Some people may ask to feel
the product to get a better of idea of what it looks
like in their head, but not in all cases.
Imagine you are the customer
In most cases, the things mentioned
above will help someone like me. Try shutting your eyes, or
being blindfolded, and imagine being in those situations. I
guess you would find it a lot harder to find what you are
looking for without sight, no matter what the situation may be.
What would you find helpful if you could not see?
In the kitchen
Within the home the
same directions can be
given as well.
Eg. On an oven dial, (if the
“off” is at the top) you could tell the person that “off is at
12 o'clock” and “180 degrees C is at 7 o'clock”. These
temperature markings can also be marked with tactile bumps so
they can feel it for themselves when you are not there.
In the dining room
On a kitchen table directions can be
given for placement of items, food etc. It takes a little
getting used to, but the same principle applies (as mentioned
for directions in the restaurant) again enabling choice as well
as giving a better description
is what is nearby.
Eg. (If you are placing the
cup on the table) “Your coffee cup is at 10 o'clock with the
handle facing to your right”... (If you are handing the cup to a
person you have served before) “I have your coffee cup in front
of you and I am placing the handle in your right hand”... (If
you are handing the cup to a person you have not served before)
“I have your coffee cup in front of you; Where would you like
it? Would you like me to place it in your hands? Which way do
you prefer the handle – to your left or right?
In the lounge room
remote is on the coffee table, in
front of you, about 30cm
to your left”.
Entering a house
Advise the person of any steps (how
many), ramps, handrails or doors and which way those doors open.
(Remember the handrails may be “to your left” or “to your right”
and doors may open “toward you” or “away from you”. Handles may
be “on the left” or “on the right at elbow height”). The same directions can be given
inside the house to navigate it.
In summary, regardless of where a blind or vision
impaired person may be, the best way to assist us is to ask if we need
assistance; and if so, be very descriptive in your directions.
If this advice is put into practise, it makes for
excellent customer service.