Deaf and Blind Able to Shop Alone at Non-Profit Grocery Store

Braille signs and audio scanner help visually impaired shop for groceries independently
By Jesara Sinclair, CBC News Posted: Oct 16, 2014 4:16 PM PT Last Updated: Oct 17, 2014 3:23 PM PT

Pardeep Khrod says the Quest Food Exchange’s visually impaired customers have had a lot of fun using the audio scanner. The device scans the product barcode and tells customers what they are holding.

A non-profit food store in Vancouver’s east end has introduced Braille signs and audio scanners to allow deaf-blind and other visually impaired customers to shop independently.

The grocery markets operated by the Quest Food Exchange aren’t open to the public.Instead low-income clients are referred through a social services agency.

The project started when Paralympic athlete Eddy Morten lost his job and became a customer at the food market. Morten is deaf and blind.

“When we started talking to him, Eddie was unable to go shopping on his own, and an interpreter would cost him $50 for one hour and he would need to book two hours,” marketing manager Pardeep Khrod told CBC Radio’s On The Coast.

Morten was brought on as the project coordinator. Khrod says he helped staff understand the challenges of navigating a grocery store when both deaf and blind.

A Braille map has been installed at the entry of the store, so visually impaired customers can get a sense of the store’s layout. Each aisle has a marker, called a blade, with Braille lettering to tell the customer what they will find in that aisle.

The store also lends visually impaired customers an audio scanner, a small black device that scans each items and tells them what the product is, and how much it costs.

Khrod estimates Quest Food Exchange has about 1,000 customers who would benefit from the new services. About 20 of those customers have come in to tour the market, and find out how the new signs and scanners work.

“The feedback was great. Now they’re able to shop independently and they just loved it,” she said.

The Braille signs and audio scanners are currently only available at Quest’s food market on Dundas Street in East Vancouver. It hopes to expand the project to its three other Lower Mainland locations over the next few months

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