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New study finds 17% of visually impaired people avoid shopping due to poor facilities

A new study has found that up to 17% of visually impaired people do not engage in any form of shopping due to the stress caused by failures to accommodate their needs.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

New study finds 17% of visually impaired people avoid shopping due to poor facilities

The study's findings are reflected in recent criticism of Visa for failing to provide ATM’s accessible to the visually impaired at the London 2012 Olympic Games venues.

The report by Cass Business School in association with the Royal National Institute of the Blind, concluded that shopping is one of the most stressful activities for visually impaired consumers.

Globally the number of visually impaired people is around 314 million and this figure is likely to double by 2030. These figures support the researchers’ calls for more assistance from consumer bodies and public policy makers in accommodating the needs of the visually impaired.

Cass professor of consumer marketing, Vincent-Wayne Mitchell said: "It is important that public policy and consumer bodies recognise the people who are excluded from the shopping experience. The fact that many companies have failed to accommodate the visually impaired at London 2012 is a prime example of the difficulties they face in day-to-day living.

"Moving forward, it is imperative that service staff in theatres, restaurants and shops are taught how to engage with visually impaired customers. More retailers should install tactile keypads on payment devices, provide assistance to retrieve merchandise and provide Braille product lists and menus. Retailers need to make it easier for visually impaired customers to order, browse and make choices."

In addition, the study examined the effect of activities like shopping on the wellbeing of the visually impaired. It found that visually impaired people with quality support networks and coping mechanisms were more likely to shop and that this led to a greater feeling of wellbeing.

Professor Ian Bruce, president of Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness and vice president of the RNIB explained: "A high degree of good quality social support through friends, family and social services makes a person feel better and makes them more eager to engage in activities such as shopping.

"A point of note is the type of support. The study found that support networks that made decisions for the visually impaired person had a negative impact on their wellbeing, the individual withdrew from the activity and became disengaged, whereas support networks that made choices with the visually impaired person had a positive effect, wellbeing and engagement increased."

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