Finding the ideal training location in which to teach our clients various strategies for living life with vision loss can at times be challenging. This may be especially true when working in the rural communities of north Georgia. We teachers may not know a community well enough to find a traditional residential area with well-maintained, safe sidewalks. Sometimes rural communities no longer have a walkable downtown or even a lighted intersection. Where can we go to teach clients how to ask for assistance with shopping tasks or to teach young people about work? The answer to many of our needs is often found at the local Grocery Store.
In some areas of NW Georgia, there are a plethora of stores that those of us in the more metro area, only read about in a good Novel: Piggly Wiggly or Penny Pinchers for example. In other towns we may find an Ingles, a Kroger, or a Publix and of course, there is always a Wal-Mart. Large wide aisles, helpful staff, clean bathrooms and maybe even a seating area with WiFi; many grocery stores in our communities are not just a place to shop, but also a place where those in the community can go to connect with others and get out of their homes for a few hours.
Large black price signs with huge white numbers; yellow store section labels with black letters and numbers; blue signs with large print white wording. Many Grocery stores have signage that our low vision clients can actually see and read! Other helpful accommodations include, flat, well-groomed sidewalks, ramps with updated truncator bumps, no stairs and well-defined pedestrian crosswalks and walkways. Cane training in many of these stores offers us the ability to keep our clients safe, while also allowing them to test their skills in realistic shopping situations. Shopping carts, display cases, children dashing across their path all provide the type of practice a new cane user needs. In just about any store we can also practice using compass directions to label the various walls and corners, route planning to travel to different departments and soliciting assistance to locate a specific item when needed.
When we need a place to practice work skills, we may stop at a display of children’s clothing and practice reading the sizes, re-folding the items and replacing them back on the shelf. Sometimes, we find an employee unpacking boxes and may offer to help put items on hangers. While checking out, we talk to the cashier about her work experience and what she likes best about her job. And, there is always something we can buy to snack on while we sit down to review the lesson. One of my favorite lessons included unpacking the blooms and arranging them into the proper bins in the flower department!
For most of us the grocery store is a place we HAVE to go to every few days to pick up items for our families. However, for many, these institutions are the lifeblood of their community. A place where people come together, connect, learn from one another and share about their lives. The next time you need to run by “the Store” , slow down, take time to talk to a few folks and take a good look around. Appreciate all that these businesses offer, not just for you and your family, but also to our community. We at VRS, are thankful each day for how they support us and our clients. Thank You and see you soon.