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“Supermarkets and online shopping are a huge problem”, say campaigners

We’ve received a high volume of calls to our Helpline from blind and partially sighted people concerned about how they can do their shopping.

Three voices from Wales speak out about their experiences and why the situation must improve.

Rachel Jones, from Powys:

I live in mid Wales so am quite isolated anyway, but now I am suddenly not able to go to the supermarket at all. The nearest Sainsburys is 30 miles away. I can’t use public transport, my husband is working round the clock in food manufacturing, and my elderly parents are having to self-isolate. My support network has disappeared.

“There is a local Co-Op but the shelves are always empty. My husband tries to bring back food when he can but there’s rarely anything to buy. Even if I could get to the supermarket, it would be dangerous as I wouldn’t be able to socially distance myself properly. It just isn’t worth the risk. Online shopping is my only option.”

“I haven’t been able to get a food delivery for weeks and can’t register myself for priority deliveries. I felt like I had to ration the food in my cupboards just in case I couldn’t get another shop for weeks. Thankfully now my husband is at home more and I have had offers from the community for food deliveries, but I worry for other people in my situation who have less support than I do. It is frustrating and supermarkets need to realise that blind and partially sighted people need extra support, too.”

Chris Reddington, from Cardiff:

“I don’t see as well as most people, but that’s not always obvious to supermarket staff when I rock up at a store. I’m usually very independent but feel like I now have to present myself as vulnerable.

“About two weeks ago I went to Aldi and it was impossible to socially distance. No one identified me as someone with sight loss and people were pushing me out of the way to grab something next to me.

“I had a much better experience at Sainsburys. It was early and they were letting people with disabilities in as a priority. A staff member came to help me and was great at social distancing in a creative way. She guided me with a trolley, so I could make my way through the shop without being too close to her. She took us through the self-checkout, scanned everything through and left it for us to pick up. It was much less stressful. I wasn’t bumping into people or crashing into things. But sadly this seems to be an exception and not the norm.

“I’ve heard horror stories about people trying to get online delivery slots so I haven’t bothered trying to get one myself. I’ve also found that some of the online shopping websites are very inaccessible. For instance, the Ocado app is great but it crashed recently because it is being swamped. I tried to order on their website but found it impossible to use. It’s so frustrating for people who struggle in supermarkets, because that option to order online has now been taken away. I feel like things would be so much easier if we could identify ourselves as needing extra help, but we can’t.”

Gemma Jones, from Swansea:

“I am a blind single mother with three children and have really struggled since the lockdown. My family had to self-isolate for two weeks because one of my kids had symptoms, and my two PAs couldn’t come in and help me out.

“I wasn’t able to go to the supermarket, and when I checked online the delivery slots were ridiculous – there was almost a month’s waiting time. I finally managed to find a site I could order from but so much was sold out, so I had to choose more expensive alternatives.

“When the order arrived they had substituted lots more of the items, which is makes things difficult because I am used to buying certain brands that I can easily recognise at home. They also left out a lot of my order. My children wanted toast for dinner the other night, but we didn’t have any bread.

“My PA is now able to come to the house again so I can ask her to do a shop, but it is a huge strain on her time because a 30-minute shop can now take three hours. It is a lot to ask of her. Supermarkets need to recognise the extra issues that face those of us who are blind and partially sighted. No one should have to go without because of their disability.”