Go! Shop - after work This is the story of a shopping trip made by someone who has very little sight – just light and dark - and shops with a sighted helper, using a symbol cane. It describes her journey after work to buy greetings cards and food for the family meal. You can read the story and also click where shown to hear audio clips. Some of the clips come from the actual journey made with a couple of researchers; some were recorded when talking about the journey afterwards. Here I am setting off into town – just a few minutes walk from where I work. I work part time, so I finish around three o’clock, and the researchers meet me at my office building to go shopping in the city centre. I usually go with a friend if I have shopping to do. A guide dog wouldn’t really work for me, because I quite often have to do journeys in different places that would be unfamiliar for a dog, but I’m lucky in that I have a good network of family and friends who can help. We’ve found ways of making things work. I can sometimes go with someone after work, like today; and other times I can fit trips around things that other family members are doing. Click here to hear about how I travel into the city on my day off From work it’s a ten or fifteen minute walk to get to the shops. It’s fairly uneventful today – there are a couple of big puddles, and the usual things like litter in the road, but we manage to avoid them. Without a sighted guide I could cope with things like that by using my cane, but it’s the more serious hazards that I worry about. I used to go round the city centre on my own, but I had a couple of near-misses and really don’t feel comfortable now without a sighted person to shop with me. Click here to hear about one of the near misses I had First stop today is a card shop. We’ve got a twenty-first birthday coming up in the family, so I want to get a card, some banners and a few balloons. The card shop is pretty busy and crowded, but one of the shop assistants is tidying the shelves and quickly offers to help. People don’t always know how to treat you in shops – you sometimes get the feeling they’re a bit afraid of doing the wrong thing, but this girl got it right straight away. She helped guide me over to the twenty-first birthday cards, and did a good job of finding out what I wanted and describing the relevant cards. Click here to hear what happened in the card shop Once I’ve chosen a card she helps me find the other things I need and even asks how I want them to be put in bags so I’ll know exactly what’s what when I get home. I pay by cash – I tend to use a card for more expensive things, but don’t usually have a problem using coins and notes. Everyone has their own way of dealing with money. I’ve got a way of telling notes apart by size that works well for me in the UK, although we went to America last year and that was more tricky, because all the notes are the same size. Click here to hear about how I tell notes apart After the card shop I’m feeling pretty positive – it’s so nice when you meet someone in a shop who gets it right. As we’re walking to the next stop through the shopping mall, we’re approached by a lady who works in the centre who asks if there’s anything we need help with today. Because I’m with a sighted helper there’s no particular help I need, but it’s good that they’re on the lookout. Shopmobility is a similar thing I suppose – I’ve not used it myself, but I’ve heard good reports. The only thing that struck me about the lady offering help was that she didn’t introduce herself by name, and at first I wasn’t sure whether she was trying to hand me a leaflet or sell me double glazing. That sort of thing happens quite a bit – store staff wear name badges but don’t always think to introduce themselves. A bit of simple training could really make a difference, even to the people who are giving a basically good service. Click here to hear what some shops could do better Anyway, next stop the supermarket, where I just want to get a couple of things for the family dinner tonight. Again it’s pretty busy in there, but with sighted help I can find what I need. This would be pretty much impossible without someone who can see, and in here there aren’t many staff around except on the tills, so I’d be a bit stuck. At the tills it’s not such a good experience. As people put things on the conveyor, they have to put away the basket under the counter, behind the other people who are queuing. I nearly get knocked over by someone who doesn’t realise I can’t see, and then the assistant is pretty unhelpful. When I ask for bags she just says “They’re over there”, which isn’t a lot of use, and then when I pay she tries to give the change to the researcher who’s with me. This has happened before – I try not to get annoyed about it, but that can be hard at the end of a long day. Click here to hear about the bad way to be given change in shops So after a good start, that was a bit more disheartening. I did have a couple more things I was thinking about getting, but by now we have quite a bit to carry and I’m getting a slight headache. Having to concentrate on everything that’s going on can get to be hard work, even when someone else is with you. I decide it’s time to call it a day, and I make a call to arrange a lift home. We’re quite loaded up after a visit to two shops – the balloons aren’t heavy, but they’re awkward to carry. On the way to the car park we walk down a road with lots of street furniture, and I’m reminded of what someone warned me about on another road near here. List to an audio clip describing some of the hazards I come across in the street It’s easy for people to forget that, for someone who can’t see, things at head height like that can be really dangerous; especially if they’re new or have been moved unexpectedly. Even if you have a dog it’s harder for them to recognise and deal with things above dog level. I must admit that it’s a relief to get to the car park and find my friend waiting to give me a lift home. I could have gone on the bus, but with all the stuff to carry it’s a welcome relief not to. On the way back I chat to her about the ups and downs of the trip. Today wasn’t particularly better or worse than usual – you just have to learn to deal with the good and bad things that happen and I always try to keep a positive attitude Click here to hear an audio clip of me thinking positively!