Welcome to the Aidis Trust blog. Here you’ll find our posts on assistive technology that are meant to inform and encourage discussion. Feel free to join in!

Making shopping less daunting



I’ve been going shopping with friends recently and have been thinking a lot about the things I do differently to make my day enjoyable. I wanted to write a diary blog about my recent trip to my local shopping centre, the technology that helps me to do it, and how friends help me get the most out of the phrase ‘shop til you drop’! 

Friday, 8.45pm 

I’m going to meet a friend tomorrow morning, so I know that I’ll have to book a taxi to help me get to the shopping centre, which is in a local town near to my University. I can’t use the buses as they do not have announcements on and so are not disability accessible, which is a shame. But taxis are a way to get around this – and a good one at that. I always prefer to call a taxi as I prefer speaking to someone on the phone. But for some people, like my friend who has difficulty being understood by people, an App is a much better solution. One of the best ones is called Uber which not only allows you to book a taxi in advance, but also shows you where taxis are available to be flagged down in real time which is great. 

Saturday, 11am 

I get out of the taxi at a shop near the shopping centre. This is a handy trick I’ve used many times before, because I don’t particularly like large crowds of people and it’s easier to spot friends when it’s quieter. Also, I’m not sure of my way around this shopping centre yet, so meeting anyone in there would be a bit of a challenge!

When I’m shopping on my own, I take my cane with me, but when I’m with a friend, I sometimes don’t – like today. I’m still considering having a bright pink one! When I’m on my own and have my cane, it lets me find members of staff easily – they often come to me because they know I can’t see them  – and also make use of any assistance service that might be available – no such luck here as the shopping centre is quite small!  A lot of the bigger shopping centres, like Westfield (my favourite in London!)  have this service available, where trained staff members take you to where you need to go and then pick you up when you’ve finished in the shop. When they’re available though, I prefer to be guided by a friend instead, it’s a good excuse to hang (literally!) and have a chat. My friend is here just after 11, and we head off to the shops together. 

Saturday, 1pm 

My friend and I are browsing around the clothes shops. One of our favourites is Primark – cheap, colourful clothes that are really affordable for students too!

The only extra help I need is for my friend to explain what things are, and sometimes the colour, especially if there is a mix of different colours. When I’m on my own I use the Color ID app on my iPad which not only tells me the basic colour of something, it also gives me detailed descriptions of the type of colour (e.g. cobalt blue). I find this really helpful for when I’m on my own, but when I’m with a friend it’s quicker and more fun to let them describe the colours to me – they often give a better description of the clothes as a whole!

I don’t need to go to try anything on, but my friend does so I go with her. I’m impressed to see that there are accessible changing rooms, which is not only helpful for my friends who are wheelchair users, but also for me. Sometimes if I need help getting something on, I need someone to help me and the bigger space allows this to happen. I’m very pleased. There still aren’t enough accessible changing rooms in shops, which is shown by the fact that I’m so impressed – and somewhat surprised! –  to see one.

I can never see prices on things either, so I ask my friend to tell me. When I’m on my own, I usually ask a shop assistant, but actually I’ve thought about getting a pocket magnifier, to make this a little bit easier and to make me more independent. With the help from my friend, I find some cool socks. Going to pay for them luckily isn’t a problem, as I pay with exact change – I tend to find the change before I queue up to pay, so I’m not holding people up behind me searching for it – another good tip. 

Saturday, 2pm 

We decide to go to Wetherspoons for lunch. We often go for lunch a bit later than everyone else because there are fewer people and it’s easier to navigate, whether you’ve got a disability or not! Getting to the bar to order is also easier if there are less people and a bit less daunting. We sit down and find the menus. Luckily they’re typed in large and bold font so that I can read them, which is a relief, but if I can’t, I usually just ask a friend or family member to help me. I also sometimes look up the menu online beforehand if me and my friends are going somewhere new, so that I know what’s there without looking at small print menus that I might not be able to read. There are also Apps being developed now that read out the menu to you – especially in America! – with places like McDonalds – so hopefully that will become a bit more of a ‘thing’ in the future! 

Saturday, 5pm 

We decide to leave the shopping centre and go back to my student digs for a cup of tea. We’ve had a great day shopping and my friend uses Google Maps to work out how she’ll get home from my place. When I’m shopping on my own, or in a new area, I often use Google Maps to find where unfamiliar places are in relation to the ones that I know – it’s how my friend found me at the shop earlier too! Google Maps can be really helpful to use in everyday life situations too – for example, to look at the layout of my University campus. I use it quite a lot. It’s often the things that aren’t designed for people with disabilities that can surprisingly be the most helpful. 

My friend and I have had a great time out today and I’m sure we’ll be going again soon! 


How do you access shopping? Tell us in the comments below and get involved! 



http://uk.westfield.com/london/services/concierge/london-shopmobility/ (Accessibility at Westfield) 

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.5145944,-0.035163,13z (Google Maps) 

http://shop.rnib.org.uk/magnification/browse-by-type/pocket.html (RNIB Magnifier) 

https://get.uber.com/sign-up/?utm_source=AdWords_Brand&utm_campaign=search%7Cdesktop%7Criders%7Clondon%7Ccountry-184%7Ccity-18%7Ckeyword_Über%7Cmatchtype_e%7Cad_44059448577%7Ccampaign_brand%7Cgroup_uber%3Eexact&utm_medium=kenid_08e88684-880c-bf08-52b5-000054145270&gclid=Cj0KEQjwvuuqBRDG95yR6tmfg9oBEiQAjE3RQHakn3ymS764CwoIP5dYhNAwXi8VMiZrtUUVdLli6o8aAkDF8P8HAQ (Uber) 

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