Accessing food and groceries in the UK can present a challenge, particularly if you are blind or partially sighted.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, supermarkets have asked people to shop differently and the major chains have adapted their online services to try and meet demand. These are detailed below.
But, with coronavirus cases increasing across the UK, the demand for online deliveries of food and groceries from the supermarkets is increasing, and you may be finding it hard to get a delivery slot. RNIB can support blind or partially sighted people who are struggling to access food.
We can provide help and advice, and for people in England, and some areas of Scotland, we may be able to refer you to priority supermarket delivery slots via the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.
In Northern Ireland, anyone in need of food or other essential support can phone the Helpline on: 0808 802 0020; email: [email protected], or text: ACTION to 81025.
In Scotland, there is a National Assistance helpline for access to food and groceries.
Elsewhere, you can find information on the Sight Advice FAQ website, a resource for blind and partially sighted people supported by RNIB, there is a range of useful information on a variety of subjects including how to arrange shopping deliveries and how to get essential food supplies if you are struggling financially. We have also put together information we've found online about what different supermarkets are doing to help disabled customers.
Listed below is more key information and links to specific supermarkets detailing some of the services they offer:
Priority delivery slots with major supermarkets
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has recognised specific challenges faced by people with sight loss, among others.
Defra has secured online shopping slots from two major supermarkets for people whose independence has been challenged by the lockdown, including those with sight loss. People in England, who qualify, can be referred to the shopping slots through RNIB’s Helpline on 0303 123 9999.
More information on priority delivery
Your shopping environment may be changing
If you are blind or partially sighted and are needing to go to a local supermarket for your essential shopping, please be aware that stores across the country and putting measures in place to protect us all. So, it's important that you are aware that you may find changes to the environment you are usually used to. These measures could include the following:
- temporary barriers
- store reconfiguration (especially near checkouts)
- floor markings for social distancing
- perspex screens protecting check-out staff
- requests for contactless payment methods (all the supermarkets mentioned below have raised their in-store contactless payment amounts to £45)
- and it is now mandatory in England and Scotland for everyone to wear face masks in shops.
Some of these measures will differ from store to store and may change over time.
Hidden Disability Lanyard
If you have a disability that may not be immediately obvious but would appreciate support from staff when you're doing your shopping, you may be interested to know there is a lanyard which can signal this. The sunflower lanyard is currently recognised in Tesco, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury's. Find out more about the lanyard and how you can get one.
Aldi has launched an online parcel grocery service to help vulnerable customers and those self-isolating. The parcels contain 22 products, including; tinned soup, rice, pasta, antibacterial handwash and a four-pack of toilet roll. They are available on its website and cost £24.99. It's also launched a new voucher scheme to make it easier for volunteers to buy food on behalf of others. The vouchers are available to buy on a new Aldi voucher website and, once purchased, they can be posted to any address in the UK at no extra cost. Aldi has also partnered with Deliveroo to help make it easier to get essential items delivered to you in a hurry. Find further information on this on their website.
Further to this, it has introduced reserved opening times (30 minutes before normal opening hours Monday to Saturday) for vulnerable shoppers. Find out more information on ALDI's special opening times.
It has also issued notification of the mandatory wearing of face masks in-store.
It has introduced a volunteer shopping card. Customers can buy these shopping cards online, top up and give to a family member, friend, or NHS volunteer to pay for their shopping without the hassle of using cash or bank cards. This also promotes a contactless way of shopping, essential for reducing risk to our self-isolating customers, the supermarket says.
Asda is launching a £30 food box (including cost of delivery) featuring essential items which will be delivered direct to the doorstep within two days of an order being placed. The delivery will be made by a third-party provider to stop additional pressure on Asda’s existing grocery home shopping service.
See updates on Asda's reaction to the coronavirus.
All of its stores have a dedicated shopping hour for those at higher risk and the people who care for them.
Find out more information on the Co-op's dedicated shopping hour.
Marks and Spencer
It has set aside the first hour of trading on Mondays and Thursdays for older and vulnerable customers. It has also introduced a selection of ten food boxes ranging from £15 to £45 for home delivery.
Find out more information for Marks and Spencer customers.
The retailer has also revised its COVID-19 updates to include the need to wear face masks in-store.
From 1 October, its online Food to Order service will move to Ocado.
Morrisons has announced new measures aimed at helping elderly and vulnerable customers during the coronavirus period. It has introduced a new dedicated telesales shopping service enabling customers to order over the phone which will then be delivered the following day by a Morrisons employee from their local store. Simply call 0345 611 6111 and select option five to place your order through the service - and be aware that you will need to pay via contactless payment when your shopping is delivered.
This is just one of the ways Morrisons is expanding its home delivery service during this time. Another of its new delivery initiatives is a link up with Deliveroo. Morrisons has also started offering a selection of different food boxes available for delivery which you can also order by calling 0345 611 6111 and select option four.
On May 11, Morrisons and Amazon announced they are expanding their same-day, online grocery delivery service to Prime members - covering most of London and the UK - with more than 40 stores. Customers order via Prime Now and have their goods delivered by Amazon on the same day.
See more information on Morrisons' services.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all of the chain’s supermarkets will dedicate the hour of 8am - 9am to serving older, disabled and vulnerable customers, as well as NHS and Social Care workers. Sainsbury's says its existing online customers who are over 70 years of age, vulnerable, or who have a disability, will get priority access to online home delivery slots and access to Click And Collect services. Sainsbury's also says it is receiving the Government database, which tells it which people in England the Government considers to be most vulnerable, to enable it to offer those already registered with Sainsbury's a delivery slot.
It encourages people who this applies to register as vulnerable to coronavirus on the Government's website.
Sainsbury's has also introduced a "Volunteer shopping card" scheme, where you can send an E-Gift card to a friend or helper so they can do your shopping for you.
Find out more about Sainsbury's opening hours.
Tesco says it is prioritising older people and the most vulnerable between 9 - 10 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, except for its Express outlets. Tesco has also introduced a system whereby if you are a vulnerable customer, but you aren't included on the Government's vulnerable person's register, you can call 0800 917 7359 to access priority delivery slots.
Find out more about Tesco's access hour plan.
Find out about accessibility and Tesco.com.
First hour of store opening to be dedicated to older and vulnerable people and it is exploring ways to offer its services remotely. It has confirmed the launch of the Waitrose Volunteers shopping card and e-gift card. Waitrose has also announced that some of their stores are offering the "Waitrose & Partners Rapid" service, which enables shoppers to have up to 25 grocery items delivered within two hours of ordering. But this is only available within certain postcodes.
See more information on Waitrose's opening hour changes.
The agreement between Waitrose and Partners and Ocado ends in August. From 1 September 2020, waitrose.com will be the only website where you can order Waitrose and Partners products.
Amazon Fresh, the online grocery service, has now opened up its offering; meaning you no longer need to be an Amazon Prime subscriber to order your shopping from it.
Find out more about ordering from Amazon Fresh.
What we're doing to help
RNIB, jointly with other sight loss sector charities Guide Dogs, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary, have reached out to leading supermarkets to ensure people with sight loss are considered through this difficult time. In addition to this, we have recently sent guidance to the major supermarkets on how to best support their blind and partially sighted customers during coronavirus, find out more here.