I can't see the checkout
As a vision impaired person I find it stressful to use checkouts at department stores and supermarkets. I struggle to find the shortest queue and can't see the checkout operator waiting for me. I can't use a self-service checkout. People with disabilities have the right to access stores and checkouts. When I have trouble at the registers I take the time to try and educate staff on how they can help. Sometimes I also make a formal complaint. I want to see a time when blind and vision impaired people won't have to struggle to access checkouts.
Posted by: Kristy Hyland, on 21/05/12
I can't use a self-service checkout.
I have enough vision to shop in department stores and browse the shelves independently. Many of my vision impaired friends do too. But when it comes time to purchase the goods I'm not alone in becoming very anxious.
My narrow field of vision and poor acuity mean I can't use a self service checkout. These registers have no voice or screen enlargement software to make them accessible so I have to use an assisted checkout instead.
Department stores use one of two styles of assisted checkout. The first is the traditional bank of registers where customers need to pick the shortest line. These types of register options are still commonly found in supermarkets, department and hardware stores. It can often be difficult for people with a vision impairment to find the shortest queue.
The second style of register ensures a
first come, first serve policy. Customers form one line and are called through to one of several registers.
I have to rely on the checkout operator to call me through to their register. Some checkout operators are excellent and call me in a loud, clear voice. Others push a button which lights up a screen above my head or don't speak loudly enough to give me a point of direction. I find it embarrassing when I have to ask another customer to help me find the register.
Members of Young Blind Citizens Victoria's committee all reported feeling frustrated and anxious at supermarket and department store checkouts.
I can manage to read and use the self-service touch screens, says Brooke Carter
but the slots for the notes and coins never seem to be in the same place and I often need help to find where the money goes.
Department stores have their say
I contacted both Woolworths and Wesfarmers branded chains to ask how accessible their checkouts are to blind and vision impaired people. Woolworths declined to comment but the response from Target's executive leadership team was positive.
At Target, we strive to create a shopping environment where everyone feels included and valued and where difference is respected. Target's team is committed to diversity and equal opportunities and as such, we welcome all customers into our stores.
To support this, we recently participated in a Guide Dogs NSW/ACT production that provides Australians in customer service positions advice on the best practice for assisting those with vision impairment. Target will continue to work closely with Guide Dogs organisations across Australia with the aim of sharing this educational series with our 24,000 team members across the country.
This is a positive start and shows a commitment to inclusion of people with a vision impairment. Change takes time and I look forward to the day when Target staff speak up to ensure they are best serving every customer. My fear though is that it will become more challenging for me to quietly browse the aisles because every staff member will see my guide dog and want to help the blind lady with the cute puppy.
Kmart also pride themselves on making customers their number one priority.
As a part of this, whether they are working on the register, shop floor or service desk, [our staff] are there to help customers to ensure they have the best possible shopping experience. Blind or vision impaired customers can also speak with the team member at the service desk or the customer greeter on the door to seek assistance during their shopping trip or when proceeding to the checkout.
I actually put Kmart to the test recently. I was shopping for DVDs with my sighted partner and hadn't brought a mobility aid with me. Perhaps a little irresponsible but it was a spur of the moment decision. There was a security box on the DVD so we wanted to use an assisted checkout. The customer service desk appeared open. But when I put my DVDs on the counter I was told I'd have to use the self-service checkout as every other register was closed. When I explained I was blind the girl was great. She came straight back to self-service with me and helped me make my purchase.
Things you can do
Sometimes there are alternate ways to check out in department stores. There is often a home entertainment, photo or cosmetics counter where there are fewer registers and you can purchase items from anywhere in the store. As an added bonus the lines for these counters are often shorter in non-peak times.
I fully support Blind Citizens Australia's recommendation of self advocacy. Sometimes this is as simple as explaining to the checkout operator how they can best assist you. Sometimes this may not be a positive experience. If so, you can write to a store manager or head office and explain why your store experience was difficult because of your disability.
Section 24 of the
Federal Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) says that goods, services and facilities must be accessible to people with disabilities. A touch screen to purchase goods would be classified as a facility which should be accessible. So should the system for calling customers to an assisted register. You should site the DDA in your complaint. You will also need to explain what can be done to make your experience better in future.
Most stores and businesses will respond to your feedback. If you are worried that your message isn't clear on paper ask them to call you.
One complaint from an individual may seem insignificant. But remember that department stores and supermarkets won't see a need to make their registers accessible if they don't know there is a problem.
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