Guidance for shops

During the coronavirus outbreak we are helping people with sight loss to continue living actively, independently and well. We know that a major barrier to this in the current context has been accessing food. As many stores brought in queuing systems, in-store changes and stopped providing assistance shopping, going to the shops has been a difficult experience for many. 

We welcome the steps that retailers have taken in the short term to ensure blind and partially sighted people can get the items they need. However, as we adapt to this new way of life and as more retailers open, it is important to consider a sustainable way of ensuring that people with sight loss have a positive experience of shopping. We have produced this guidance to support you in doing this. 


On this page

Key recommendations

  • Include people with sight loss in any shopping hours exclusively open for elderly and ‘vulnerable’ people.
  • Ensure staff are trained to provide support to people with sight loss shopping in-store.
  • Ensure any changes to the instore experience are communicated accessibly to people with sight loss and members of the public.

Arriving at the store

  • Ensure that any changes to store opening times or priority access are communicated clearly and updated regularly. It is against the law to refuse access to a guide dog. 
  • Staff and security staff at the entrance should be aware that many shoppers will have conditions or disabilities that mean they may need further support when shopping, and that all businesses and services have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities.
  • Blind or partially sighted people may need to be accompanied in order to shop, they may have a mobility aid such as a guide dog or cane and may require in-store assistance from staff.
  • Brief staff and security guards on the different types of assistance dogs to expect and different mobility canes.
  • Staff should explain how blind and partially sighted shoppers can navigate queues or barriers, and any changes to store layout, including one-way layouts and the installation of perspex screens.  Where possible, tactile provisions should be put in place, e.g. raised floor stickers.

Providing assistance 

  • Identify yourself – always introduce yourself and inform the person of your name and job title.
  • Always ask the person if they would like any assistance or help and ask them what their name is. 
  • Continue to use normal body language. This will positively affect the tone of your voice and provide extra information to the person who is vision impaired.
  • Don’t be afraid to use everyday language.
  • Never channel conversation through a third person. Always speak directly to the vision impaired person.
  • When verbally guiding a person, ask them if they would like you to walk ahead of them, behind or on their left or right (2 metres distance). Their preference may allow them to use any remaining vision.
  • Provide clear instructions when describing a route or when you would like the person to change direction e.g. Left and Right
  • You may wish to use the ‘clock face technique’ when describing the environment in front of the person - e.g. ‘directly in front of you at 12 o’clock is the main entrance, to your right at 3 o’clock is a counter. On your left at 9 o’clock is the start of an aisle”.  
  • When walking always let the person know about differences in the floor surface such as steps and any changes in surface such as moving from tiles to a carpeted area.
  • Inform the person of any obstacles near them that could be trip hazards or that they could accidentally bump into e.g. trolleys or display.
  • Never leave a conversation with a person without saying so. It’s really important they know when you have left them and they know what to do next once you have gone.
  • Finally, consider asking how the experience was for them or if there is anything that could have been done differently. If there is this could not only benefit you but also the next customer with sight loss for whom you provide assistance.

At the checkout

  • Consider providing a dedicated checkout for disabled customers.
  • Let the customer know about any distancing measures in place and whether there are perspex screens installed.
  • Talk the customer through the payment process; where any card machines are located, and if the customer is paying in cash, let them know where it needs to be placed and count out their change.

Practical considerations

  • Utilise public address systems to make store announcements.
  • Open up in-store Wi-Fi so people can use their own tech solutions, e.g.  apps with artificial intelligence that identify items, and to enable blind and partially sighted customers to get assistance via video call.
  • Keep back some basic items for disabled customers to support those on lower incomes/ benefits or people with particular dietary needs.