Purple Tuesday guide for retailers

How to provide excellent customer service to blind and partially sighted shoppers

This guide has been written by blind and partially sighted people. Find out how you can improve the accessibility of your shop and support your visually impaired (VI) customers.

Why does accessibility matter?

Accessibility matters because it opens up shops and businesses to more people and makes the customer experience inclusive to everyone. But it also makes business sense! The purple pound (the spending power of disabled people of which there are around 10.1M in the UK) and their families is worth a staggering £274 billion.

Tips to support your blind and partially sighted customers

Be aware not all blind and partially sighted people look blind, wear glasses, use a cane or own a guide dog. They may however be wearing a sunflower badge or a lanyard so that they can be easily recognised as someone needing assistance.

Introduce yourself

Clear communication is key. Introduce yourself to the customer as soon as you notice them arrive. Let them know you are a member of staff and offer assistance.

Offer sighted guiding

Ask the person if they would like to be guided and if so, how. Some prefer to be guided by placing their hand on your shoulder. Others prefer to hold an elbow.

Verbal guidance is also an option if the VI person is comfortable with this (e.g. “the chair is about three steps in front of you, to your left, at about a 10 o’clock”).

A mixture of guiding techniques might be required.

Key is to always ask the VI person what help they would like – never assume – and do not just touch them without asking first.

If guiding a VI person around a shop, help them browse what is available by briefly mentioning what products you are passing. (e.g. “we are passing women’s dresses, men’s shoes”)

Describe a product

A VI customer may ask you to describe certain products or objects. Try to include:
• The focal point: What is the main thing that you see when you look at a product. (e.g. a flowery dress).
• The detail: What are the colours? Are there any patterns? What’s the brand of the item? How much does it cost? Is there a use-by date if it’s food?

How to make your venue accessible

Clear signage, lighting and labelling can make a huge difference to VI people being able to shop independently.

Signage

Ensure signage is large, clear, and contrasting. Signage should be at least size 48-point font. Consider painting isle numbers at ground level in yellow paint so they are clearly visible.

Lighting

Ensure your venue is well lit. Choose bright lighting that minimises glare and allows contrast.

Keeping thoroughfares clear

Please be vigilant about potential trip hazards throughout the store and keep aisles clear to keep your blind and partially sighted customers safe from slips and falls.

Stairs

Display tactile and visual signals at staircases. For example, use a striped texture surface at the top and bottom of stairs. The stripes should run parallel to the staircase to help a visually impaired person orientate themselves. Additionally, use contrasting colours to indicate the edge of the stairs.

Labelling

Ensure labels on items are as clear as possible with good contrast and a clear font. Make the most important information, like size and price, the biggest size it can be.

Rules on touching items and using mobile phones

Please be understanding that blind and partially sighted people may need to touch an item or look at it close-up when browsing or considering purchase.  They also may use an app on their mobile phone to identify the item.

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