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9 Shopping Tips for All People With Disabilities

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Rubber bands on cans will help with identification.

Rubber bands on cans will help with identification.

Shopping With a Disability

I spent years working with people who have disabilities, answering various questions. Often, these individuals had vision loss with secondary disabilities, such as hearing impairments, neurological issues, or cognitive problems. These individuals wanted to learn how to carry out various activities of daily living, including shopping. Here are some tips I provided to these different groups:

The size and shape of containers can be used to distinguish products, and the weight of the container can let one know when to shop for more.

The size and shape of containers can be used to distinguish products, and the weight of the container can let one know when to shop for more.

Nine Tips for Shopping for All People With Disabilities

1. Separate Goods by Size and Shapes

Many products have unique designs; a bottle of vinegar is probably not shaped like a bottle of cola. After a grocery trip, divide goods by their shape and size to help manage when the supply of those things become low. Such a tactic benefits people with visual impairments, elderly individuals with memory problems, and people who have difficulties with motor skills. Let manufacturing design preferences help you distinguish products and prepare for your next visit to the grocery store.

2. Use Labels and Markers

Use color stickers to help with the identification of a product. For example, you may use green stickers for beans, red for fruit, and white stickers for soups. Stickers can be acquired from many retailers or organizations like the American Printing House for the Blind. A link to their products is below.

You may also use markers of different colors, creating different symbols as needed on cans or boxes of goods. You may prefer to be creative. In the first photo, a picture is shown of a can with a rubber band on it, identifying it as a can of vegetables. using specifically designed tactile or visual cues can assist all of the groups mentioned above.

3. Place Items in Different Locations Based on Their Use

By putting things where they are used most, determining when items are needed can be accomplished quickly. For example, placing toothpaste and soap in a bathroom helps you notice when they are nearly gone. Likewise, put the same type of products together. For instance, keeping cleaning solutions under the kitchen sink can help you decide when shopping is required.

4. Prepare a List

Because items are marked or labeled and placed in specific locations, knowing when to visit the grocery store becomes manageable. You can quickly prepare a list of what supplies are needed, planning and carrying out shopping duties on your schedule. Furthermore, The shopping list can be amended as you notice a need for supplies over time, allowing for one trip to the store.

5. Have Money Organized

Folding bills and grouping them according to their denomination in a wallet or purse is one way for individuals with vision loss to be ready to pay at checkout time after shopping. Having credit or debit cards in an easy-to-access place helps speed up paying at the cash register.

Keeping coins securely in a small pouch is also a good way to organize funds without assistance. Another option is to use a currency-identifying program on a smartphone. The U.S. government provides a free currency reading device to citizens of the country. (See link provided below.) Controlling financial resources independently helps all individuals with disabilities feel accomplished in activities of daily living.

6. Get Assistance From Customer Service Staff

Customer service personnel normally have training in helping people with disabilities. These people are usually friendly and will find things for a customer. Build a respectful relationship with these employees. In time, they will begin to understand your shopping needs if you are a frequent customer.

7. Have Multiple Shopping Options

Sometimes, your favorite store may not have a product. For this reason, develop good social interactions with various stores. Occasionally, switch where you like to shop in order to have a variety of choices. Develop the skills of being assertive and polite to make shopping anywhere comfortable.

8. Get To Know People Who Can Help You

Have trusted friends, relatives, or others available to assist occasionally. They may help you in these areas: transportation, recognizing different shapes and sizes of products, labeling and marking items, and encouragement. Of course, most people want to be as independent as possible, but we all require reliable support.

9. Educate

Many people simply do not know how to interact with individuals who have disabilities because of infrequent exposure. Encourage those who wish to assist. They will eventually pass knowledge on to others. This makes your shopping a more enjoyable experience because your abilities are better understood and respected. Likewise, others can have good feelings about contributing positively.

Bagged groceries waiting to be put away

Bagged groceries waiting to be put away

How They Shop

Truthfully, the level of challenge to do any task associated with independent living depends on various factors. Those variables related to shopping include: the severity of the disability, where the person with a disability lives, and access to transportation. For instance, living in a city allows individuals with disabilities to have more options for transportation: buses, subways, cabs, etc. Furthermore, a person who uses a wheelchair may prefer to visit a store with wide aisles and electronic shopping carts. For these reasons, rehabilitation professionals work with people who have disabilities to maximize their options for addressing activities of daily living, such as shopping.

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Read More From Healthproadvice

Indeed, people with disabilities will shop in any combination of ways. This is much like individuals who are not disabled. However, people with disabilities may alter the approaches. In fact, the desired level of independence in conducting activities of daily living is one of the most crucial elements in determining how a person with a disability chooses to shop. Here are a few important methods used:

  • Online: With the aid of assistive technologies, people with visual impairments can use computers and smartphones to shop. They may schedule to pick items up or some companies will deliver. People who are deaf-blind may use a computerized Braille display as well.
  • Phone: Individuals with vision loss may call a store and have items gathered together. They then arrange to pick them up. People who use wheelchairs may do the same, especially if the store does not have room for them to move around. Individuals with hearing loss may use text messages with the customer service staff to assist with getting groceries.
  • In-Person: Some people with visual impairments who have usable sight may prefer to walk and scan the shelves for products with magnifiers. People who use wheelchairs may prefer to move throughout the store to shop.

Understanding Your Rights

Holidays encourage lucrative and rewarding shopping events, such as Cyber Monday and Black Friday. Consumers and vendors profit substantially during these times. The federal government decided years ago people with disabilities should have a part in shopping all year round, including on these occasions. In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to address this and other concerns about discrimination against people with disabling conditions. As civil rights legislation, ADA has important ramifications for individuals with disabilities.

The law covers many areas of societal involvement to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. Primarily, employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals in hiring practices and related work scenarios. In addition, education and training programs are barred from engaging in discriminatory activities. Next, public transportation and telecommunications networks must be accessible. Finally, retailers have to provide ways for people with disabilities to use their establishment. These are not the only significant sections of the law, but they are crucial for people with disabilities. Stores are responding in these ways:

  • Most online content can be accessed with minimum difficulties, and modern stores have wheelchair ramps.
  • Many shops may use automatic doors for entrance and exit from the building.
  • Customer service personnel are better trained to assist people with disabilities.
  • Some grocery chains and hardware outlets provide electronic shopping carts.

In conclusion, people with disabilities generally want to be a part of society and participate in activities like shopping. For people with disabilities, like others, a process has to occur in order to perform shopping successfully since this is an ongoing duty. They must bring items home, put them away, plan to shop again and conduct the activity when necessary. Also, usually, stores and different vendors want to make as much profit as possible while contributing to their community. By increasing accessibility, both groups prosper.

Sources Used

A Guide to Disability Rights Laws - Retrieved November 26, 2017, from:

Feel 'n Peel Stickers II - APH Shopping - American Printing House for The Blind. Retrieved November 25, 2017. from

the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Retrieved November 26, 2017, from:

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on November 16, 2019:

Last week, I worked with an elderly gentleman who needed help shopping. He didn't realize he could call his favorite grocery store andinform them he needed an electric shopping cart. Usually, stores keep these carts charged, but it's a good habit to call before visiting. Likewise, if the electric cart isn't available, people in customer service are willing to assist with your order. Thanks for reading.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on December 02, 2017:

My wife and I have dubbed you a shopping superhero, Ice Cold Princess. Even if you landed with the frozen chickens, chicken is not in your bio. Thankfully, many of us are in the club with you. Anyone who is trying to survive doing things the best they can deserves to be respected.

Thank you all for your cheerful and thoughtful comments. See ya shopping!

Ice cold princess on December 01, 2017:

You'd probably love to see me on a shopping trip, I've been known to attempt to climb the shelving to get to the product that I want before now (not recommended, mind... I almost tipped them a couple of times!) and I almost joined a frozen chicken in the freezer. It can be so funny to see the ways that my efforts to manage have backfired on me over the years.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on November 30, 2017:

Excellent. I agree. Both my wife and I (I have vision loss and she uses a wheelchair) have trouble some days;. Most of the time though, if we call ahead and give the staff time to gather stuff, we receive excellent service.

Here's something funny: I pointed out to one customer service person, "Hey, I would shop independently, of course, depending on which products you want accidentally knocked off your shelves."

She laughed and until this day, she calls me Mr. Tim, the Shopping Terminator. We still share this laugh after five years.

Thanks, Ice Cold Princess for your insightful comment. From reading your articles, I can tell you handle things with assertiveness and kindness as well.

We can't change the world in a day, but maybe the world will change with us over time. Change is the only constant in life after all.

(Watch those British winters, ICP.) God bless you and your family.

Ice cold princess on November 30, 2017:

Larger stores could help more by having more staff throughout the store to help. I'd rather not have to walk from the back to the front to ask for someone to reach me a t shirt or box of cornflakes down.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on November 30, 2017:

Thanks for your comments. Stores are beginning to change, but you hit it right on the mark when you said: "People are changing." One of my professors, an ex-marine and head of rehabilitation once told me: "If people live long enough, at some point, they will encounter a life altering disability." He included old age in that category because sometimes the elderly are treated with little regard.

Being an advocate for yourself with the intelligence you displayed in your comments, I know you make the best of your world. Thanks for helping with the ongoing effort to educate with assertiveness and kindness.


Dennis Thorgesen from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S. on November 30, 2017:

People are changing. Years ago shopping was a real pain. Literally, at the local supermarket people would purposely run into my hands when I was making myself move in the wheelchair. It happened every time I was in the store.

Thank goodness that store is now 1,300 miles away. Where I was at the time it was the closest store and it was 7 miles from where I lived. The next nearest was 12 miles.

My bank now lets me use one of the desks when I need to write something. When I go to pay the cable bill one of the staff open both doors so I can get in.

I was told I am one of the lucky ones. Years ago I had my drivers license reinstated. As well, I no longer need special devices to drive, with the exception of glasses.

My house is set up to where I know when I am low on something. Without glasses I am functionally blind.

Unlike some I shop at a single store. This is because I have memorized the layout and can get what I want without asking for help. The customer service people have had staff move a few products I use most where they can be easily reached.

This summer the city made great strides putting in curb cuts. Now I can go from my house downtown (in the wheelchair) and have access to most of the stores.

Sadly it is simpler and safer to go downtown than to the convenience store which is two blocks away. The nearest stoplight to get across the major highway I would have to cross is a half a mile away. It is over a mile to get downtown. I live right next to a rails to trails which takes me to three blocks from the center of town.

I stopped shopping on Black Friday in 2003. It was a daytime nightmare I never want to repeat. My knuckles looked like Swiss cheese after an hour. No one even cared that the floors were getting bloody.

Now if I really want something advertised as a Black Friday special I call the store in advance, explain my situation, and they either honor the price or not. Mostly not.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on November 29, 2017:

I wrote this article after experiencing numerous people crowding the malls near me. I was pleasantly surprised to see people with disabilities among them, trying to find bargains and working with customer service people. This showed me how we don't just talk about it in America, we really value each other.

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