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Finding bargains in the January sales can be an overwhelming experience for people with sight loss

Deborah Cooper, age 24, who has Severe Visual Snow Syndrome and Visual Processing disorder, enjoys keeping up with the latest fashion. She describes her experience of trying to find the best deals both online and on the high street.

Deborah using her tablet computer

Shopping on the high street

It can be hard to find bargains in-store, and almost impossible without assistance, so I tend to shop with friends. In-store, labels are largely inaccessible - some have multiple stickers in different colours, that make it hard to use my remaining vision. Some items have no label at all and finding a staff member to ask can be a struggle. Most stores are designed to appeal to the eye – so if you’re partially sighted, you can’t find the popular styles as easily.

Online retailers are not always accessible

Using shopping apps can be visually exhausting, as they often don’t include enough information about the products. I find Amazon can be very good, as there’s usually a very extensive product description that you can access with a screen reader or Voiceover. Apps need to be fully compatible with accessibility features.

When you do finally find a bargain, it can be difficult to ascertain if it’s available in your size, or even something that you want. Sometimes you click a size that’s unavailable and a different size gets highlighted instead, but you might not be aware of this.

Bad lighting in shops

Some shops have lights that are uncomfortable, or generate a lot of glare for most people, let alone those with sight loss. It’s common, particularly for those with photophobia, to ‘skip’ certain shops due to problematic lighting.

Inaccessible returns process

I think that there should be an accessibility function for online returns to make the whole process simpler. The process throws me every time and makes me reluctant to buy anything more from that company. The labels need to be put in different places, I have to try to click all of the instructions on the screen reader, then carry the parcel under my arm, whilst using my cane to find the nearest post office. If you need customer support, it’s increasingly hard to phone someone for assistance about an app or website.

  • If you are having difficulties shopping online, you can always contact RNIB’s Helpline, (insert link to Helpline) which can direct you to our Technology for Life team for technical assistance.
  • RNIB is working with retailers and brands including Kelloggs and Coca-Cola to ensure that shopping is made easier for people with sight loss.

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