Greater Manchester SLC deliver VI sessions at John Lewis

This week Greater Manchester Sight Loss Council (SLC) delivered vision awareness sessions at John Lewis & Partners, at the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Kelly Barton, Engagement Manager for the North West, and Ada, Greater Manchester SLC member, talked about their sight loss and level of vision, before inviting staff members to try on simulation specs (sim specs) themselves.

These glasses mirror some of the sight conditions that many blind and partially sighted (BPS) shoppers have and gave staff a real insight on what it’s like to shop with little or no vision.

Staff then participated in a short question and answer session about the best ways they can support blind and partially sighted shoppers. This covered things like; how to offer your help, describing products, store layout, and placement of items. Kelly and Ada then provided sighted-guide training before asking the team to go into the store to put what they had learnt into practise.


Image shows Kelly Barton, EM for Greater Manchester, presenting to staff members from John Lewis. The team are all sat around a table, wearing sim specs.

Kelly delivering the VI Awareness session to members of staff at John Lewis

Feedback from the session

Kelly Barton, Engagement Manager for the North West, said:

“Greater Manchester Sight Loss Council first started working with John Lewis in June 2022. This was part of our ‘Making retail accessible’ project.  It was great to go into the store to deliver vision awareness sessions to front-line staff.

“Everyone who took part was really interested, asked lots of questions, and seemed extremely keen to support blind and partially sighted shoppers. We are looking forward to continuing to develop our relationship with John Lewis going forward.”


Wendy Manion, Marketing and Events Manager for John Lewis, Trafford Centre, said:

“Partners felt the training was a must and really enjoyed all aspects of the session.

“Just knowing how to meet, greet and guide a blind or partially sighted person can play a key role in the day-to-day life of a retail assistant. Knowing not to be afraid to say things like “see you later” or “nice to see you”. It was good to refresh on how best to offer our help, and not be offended if it is not needed.

“Both teams were very grateful to have the insight and support from Kelly and Ada, to better understand how it feels to shop with sight loss. We look forward to having more sessions in the future. Thank you for the insight.”


Two John Lewis staff members looking at items in the kitchen department. One is wearing sim specs and holding an item in her hand. The other is guiding and assisting her.

John Lewis staff members shopping whilst wearing sim-specs


One participant fed back:

“I would now feel much more confident to assist a customer who has sight loss. Thank you for coming in to see us.”


Another said: “Thank you for enabling me to walk in the shoes of someone who is blind or partially sighted.”


Ada, Greater Manchester SLC member, said:

“I was thrilled with how the session at John Lewis went. I genuinely feel like the participants came eager and ready to find out more.  I was glad that they asked so many questions and that I was able to share my lived experience of sight loss. This enabled them to have a better understanding of how to support blind and partially sighted shoppers.

“When you get enthusiastic, energetic, engagement that we saw today it makes you feel that they will really apply all that they have learned when helping customers.”


Two John Lewis staff members seen on the shop floor, looking at cushions. One staff member is wearing sim specs, the other is guiding.

A John Lewis staff member is assisting a colleague wearing sim specs


Top tips for retail staff resource

Greater Manchester has produced a ‘Top tips for retail staff’ resource. This aims to help retail staff when assisting blind and partially sighted customers in store. The aim is to create a positive shopping experience for everyone.

There are several small things retailers can do that make a huge difference to the experience for blind and partially sighted people.

View our new ‘Top tips for retail staff’ guide






Publication date: 10 February 2023

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