Reevaluating the Best Way to Do My Shopping As a Person Who Is Blind

By guest blogger Chelsea Munoz

I have been blind since birth, and I currently live in San Antonio, TX. My goal is to become as independent as possible. I am constantly looking to learn new things. I enjoy writing and getting feedback. I enjoy rock climbing, horseback riding, and anything that allows me to push myself to greater heights, build my confidence, and have a great time! To me, variety truly is the spice of life!

Grocery Shopping, a Huge Challenge

A huge challenge that people who are blind face is going to the grocery store independently. There are things that make blind people’s shopping adventures more of an inconvenience than they would be for sighted people. There are also things that could make shopping experiences for people who are blind or visually impaired much more liberating.

I used to consider going to the store with a sighted friend or family member the most beneficial way to handle it. He or she could see the items that were bought. Therefore, all problems would surely be solved. A sighted person could drive to and from the store, allowing me to avoid lugging groceries around in a cab, yet ensure the desired items were purchased. The hard work of creating a grocery list was quite an accomplishment in itself at that time. Here are a few observations about going with a sighted friend versus going to the grocery store independently. These thoughts are not meant to be critical of anyone in any way, but simply to share the adventures that sometimes come with what can be a stressful part of a blind person’s day and to suggest solutions.

Shopping with a Sighted Friend

  1. The grocery list was up and ready to go on my iPhone, so I asked a friend to get granola bars with peanuts, almonds, and dark chocolate. He repeated it to me correctly, but grabbed the diet version instead. He must have been hungry that day, and that particular kind might have been what he would have chosen to eat. Perhaps he wanted to test all of my senses to see if those granola bars tasted different to me than other kinds. However, I found out later that they tasted much like cardboard. We went to dinner at a nice restaurant afterwards though, so the trip was not a total loss.
  2. Similar to the above grocery store adventure, the list was ready on my phone. Everything was in the grocery cart; things could not have been going more smoothly. Upon arriving home, my friend offered to put things away for me. I enjoy letting people do their good deed for the day, so I let him help. Once he left, I wanted a peanut butter sandwich. However, finding the bread was an unexpected bump in the road. When calling him to ask where it was, he said, “Oh, I don’t remember.” I eventually found the loaf of bread in the chip bowl!

Shopping With a Grocery Store Employee

When I have gone to the store by myself, I found the customer service desk. I requested a shopping assistant and normally someone was at my side within minutes. Much like the experiences above, I rattled off the few needed items. The shopping assistant understood things, and even found everything on the list.

All of these experiences surprised me because I used to have the misconception that friends would easily locate exactly what was on my list. Since we knew each other fairly well, I thought they would understand what to do to help me. I also assumed they knew I’d feel the sizes of the items before purchasing them. However, the opposite is often true. Friends are not always the best people to go shopping with you because they might get what they think you like, or what they think you’re talking about, without asking you for clarification or providing other options from which to choose. They may be in a big hurry because a basketball game or the latest reality TV show will air soon, so they’re ready to rush home to do what they want to do. Friends will happily take you to the store, at a time when it’s convenient for them. But they may not be available when you need to get groceries. However, if you take a cab or paratransit to the store on your own, a shopping assistant who works there will do their best to ensure that you follow your list to a T, and inform you of sales or coupons on items you’re buying. He or she will be available at your convenience.

Enjoying the Freedom of Shopping By Myself

woman shopping with assistance from store clerk

Using shopping assistants provides freedom that I never thought was attainable back when I felt it necessary to have friends or family members with me on every shopping trip. It’s a huge plus to know store workers eagerly want to give me some of their time, to ensure what’s needed gets in the cart. It’s also incredibly liberating because if I’m by myself, they have no choice but to speak directly to me, put the change in my hand at the cash register (including counting out my change so I know what they are handing me), and ask me any questions they may have. I also like to be told what each item is as it is scanned. I am not ignored or “talked over.” Rather, I am treated like a grown woman who is fully capable of providing for and speaking for herself.

Additional Resources


Bringing Home the Bacon

Grocery Shopping Hints

Finding and Hiring a Driver

Finding Rides When You Can’t Drive

Grocery Helper, An Accessible Shopping Helper for Your Smartphone or Tablet

Identifying Currency with the Money Reader App

Organizing the Kitchen

5 Key Ways Blind People Do It Better