Legally Blind – Shopping

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these. Nearly three years, which seems wrong. In any case, I had a disappointing experience I thought I’d turn into a positive and talk some about the quirks of shopping while legally blind.

I’m getting a new washer and dryer next week. It’s been ten long years since I’ve had a set of my own. The plan was originally for me to buy the set, but my folks, bless them, decided to surprise me and took care of it. Which is awesome, and it allows me to move ahead and buy a pair of glasses whenever it’s safe for me to go visit my eye doctor and get a new prescription.

I say all that because I was pretty excited to buy some laundry soap from Amazon, as well as some dryer sheets. Sounds boring, I know, but it’s something little I haven’t needed to buy in just as long. I kept a few Tide pods around – not for snacking, I’m not a maniac – but that’s about it. To save me money, as embarrassing as it might be, my mom has graciously been doing my laundry for a while now, so the thought of being able to take care of this myself has been a huge morale boost.

Anyways, the point is, I ordered some laundry soap and two boxes of dryer sheets. One was scented like sage, the other mangoes – dryer sheets got weird, and I love it. I like to do my dry goods shopping through Amazon Prime – more on that in a second – so that’s what I went with, throwing in a few other essentials like carpet cleaner and some assorted groceries.

Everything seemed to be fine. The box did its usual seven or so stops along the way, with two alone in Montana, one in Butte, the other Helena. On its last leg of the journey, the box never arrived, and late last night, I got an “undeliverable” message, which usually means something broke in transit or the box was too damaged to deliver.

Disappointing, but not a huge deal. Like I say, I do have some laundry soap, so it’s not like I was in a rush for this. But it makes for a good conversation piece on shopping while blind and some of the pride that comes with it.

As I mentioned, I like Prime Pantry, and it’s not just for the convenience. When I go to the store, I’m being driven. Usually that comes with an unwarranted feeling of guilt on my part, the idea that me browsing the store shelves is taking up someone else’s time. Rarely have I ever actually been rushed, but it feels like I need to hurry or else face the aggravation of people who have better things to do with their time. Again, I reiterate, this is all in my head. With Amazon Prime, I can take my time. I can browse for an hour or two. I can leave things in my cart, think about them, and come back later if I want them or not (well, generally – lately there’s been a lot of stuff selling out fast).

There’s also a more practical aspect too – a lot of times, I can’t see what’s on the bottom shelf of stores. In some ideal low vision world, stores would stack their items vertically as opposed to horizontally, so you could get a sampling of everything right at your face without kneeling down to grab five or six cans off the bottom shelf to see if they’re the ones without sodium, or whatever the case happens to be. But that’s not the world we live in and it makes far more sense to have the best sellers at face height anyways. That’s just wishful thinking.

The point being, finding specifics is hard. When it’s combined with that sense of “i need to get this done as fast as possible,” I’m often just grabbing things that approximate what I need. That’s not always ideal, but it’s generally okay. Online shopping helps alleviate that.

In bigger cities, upon request from the customer service area, you can generally ask for a shopping assistant. This is good to know not just for the blind, but for the elderly or otherly abled who might need the service. It’s a great idea, and it’s particularly ideal when it comes to bread, fruits, and vegetables. I’ve come home often with stale or moldy bread, and having another set of eyes on that sort of thing helps immensely. In my small town and in Montana in general, that’s not really an option. Employees are spread thin, and if I’m out and about, I’m generally with family anyways. Even if I mean it with the best of intentions, asking a store employee for help would generally seem rude to my family when they’re with me, as they tend to have just as much pride in helping me as I do in having pride about not being helped. It’s a vicious circle.

None of this is to complain. I’ve said this before, but apart from the hardships of this year, it’s a good time in general to be blind. People are starting to strive for accessibility, or at least realize its importance as issues like these come to light. So how can you help? Volunteering your time and assistance in driving around a blind person to run errands is a great start. Both having the patience and telling us it’s okay to take our time – and mean it – is just as uplifting. Don’t be offended if we seek help in other ways. There may be more under the surface than you.

Thanks for reading! And those of you who bear with us, thank you for your patience and care.

Author: therealcamlowe

Writer, occasional victim of pug crop-dusting.

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