Grocery shopping can cause different emotions in different people.
Some people love to go to the store, and prefer to go every couple of days for fresh ingredients. It’s an opportunity to get out of the house, socialize, and get ingredients to try out new recipes they have found.
Other people dread going to the grocery store and find it to be another chore on their never-ending to do list.
And there are some people that like to shop for their own food, but dislike the grocery store experience because of their disability.
Does disability mean they someone won’t like the grocery store? NO!
However, the way a community or store is set-up can make shopping for someone with a disability difficult, if not sometimes impossible.
What are some of the ways that shopping can be difficult for someone with a disability?
- Inaccessibility of the parking area.
- Lack of ride-on grocery carts at that location.
- Constant re-stocking that blocks certain aisles for wheelchair users and can be tripping hazards for people with low vision or no vision.
- Reorganization or restructuring of the store that changes where items are found – which can be overwhelming for someone with anxiety and distracting for someone with ADHD/ADD. Not to mention disorienting and potentially dangerous for someone with no vision or low vision.
- When grocery stores are busy, they are LOUD – which can be overstimulating for individuals with autism.
- Lack of ability to get a clear idea what some of the food items are. In-person events don’t offer the same accessibility as virtual events where Closed Captioning can be turned on to hear or understand someone better, or where Assistive Technology like screen readers can be used to describe items to someone with a visual disability.
- Some items are on the top of shelves, which can be difficult to reach for someone of short stature, someone in a wheelchair, or someone with limited mobility and dexterity of their hands.
The list could go on and on and on…and on
There are more barriers to accessing resources in the community as a person with a disability than there are supports.
In an effort to make grocery shopping easier for someone with a disability, we want to offer these four tips:
- Shop with a list that is helpful to you.
This means getting creative!
What do you need when you get ready to shop for groceries?
Having a grocery list is a great way to remember what items you need, stay on track with what you NEED versus what you WANT (two very different things!), stick to your budget, and have something tangible to focus on when you start to get overwhelmed.
When we say “use a grocery list” we mean create one with YOUR specific needs in mind.
- If you are more of a visual person and need pictures instead of written words – draw a picture, or use images from the internet to create a picture-focused grocery list.
- If you get easily distracted or need to conserve your energy (we know some people only have so many spoons a day – and a trip to the grocery store can easily take up all the spoons), consider creating a list that is in order of the layout of your grocery store. This way you can shop from one end to the other and not have to go back and forth as you look at your list. You can create a path of what you need and how you can get all those things in the most efficient way possible.
- Utilize voice memos on your phone and create a list that you can listen to while at the store. Remember that the grocery story can be loud – so you might need to bring headphones or hold the phone right up to your ear to be able to hear your list.
- Call a friend. Give your friend your list and have them read an item one at a time to you as you grab your groceries. When you get the item, have them read you the next item until you have everything you need. This allows you to focus on grabbing the items while someone else manages the list and makes sure you get everything you went there for.
- Send someone else to get your groceries. You create the list and then have someone else fulfill the order and deliver it to your house. This could be a friend, family member, volunteer organization, or a grocery delivery service like Instacart or Walmart Delivery. If you have an option to order items on your phone, and then have them delivered to you that can alleviate a lot of anxiety and accessibility barriers. Plus save you time and conserve your energy!
- Use resources available to you for successful grocery shopping.
- Utilize the accessible parking spots if you have an accessible parking pass
- Go to stores that have ride-on grocery carts that are easy to find and are charged
- Try helpful apps to ensure you have a good shopping experience. For someone that has low vision or no vision, grocery shopping can be difficult to ensure you get the right item or can read the ingredients list. Apps such as “be my eyes” is a great tool that connects people needing sighted support with volunteers and companies through live video around the world. www.bemyeyes.com
- Bring an extendable cane to reach items on high shelves
- Ask a grocery store employee to accompany you while you get some items that are more difficult for you to get on your own (high up on shelves, items that require strong hand grip or hand dexterity)
- Identify your strengths.
We often tend to think about the things we can’t do as barriers. However, when you focus on your strengths you see the parts you are great at and how that can help you with your shopping goals.
What are you great at when it comes to grocery shopping and/or meal prep?
- If you are great at meal planning but not sticking to the shopping list, you can write the list and either have someone else go to the store for you or utilize a delivery service. This way you aren’t tempted to grab additional items when you’re in the store yourself.
- If you are great at asking for help when you need it, make sure to ask an employee for help with tougher items at the same time so you can shop more efficiently (easier and faster).
- If purchasing free food is easier for you due to better context clues (shapes, smells, etc.) that can help people with low or no vision buy food, shop for fresh foods yourself and get assistance with dried goods or canned goods – which can all feel the same.
- If you know that you can shop for 15 minutes before you get overwhelmed, overstimulated, or overtired do your shopping in small trips. Figure out what you need for the next 1-2 days and only get those items. Conserve your energy and put your physical and mental health first.
- Practice getting comfortable with self-advocacy
There are going to be times when we need help or assistance; and some of these times will be at the grocery store.
Self-advocacy means knowing what it is you want or need, figuring out how you are going to get those things and what some of the barriers may be, and then knowing what resources you have around you to help you be successful (people, Assistive Technology, etc.).
- It’s okay to ask for help if you can’t reach something. It doesn’t mean you aren’t independent if you need help. Being a self-advocate means asking for help when you need it. And the great part? YOU get to decide what that help looks like!
For example, after checking out with your groceries at the counter, many of the baggers will ask “do you need help getting your groceries to your car?”. If you DO need help pushing the cart or unloading the bags into your car, say yes! If you don’t need help putting the groceries in your car, but know you don’t have the energy to bring the cart back to the store afterwards, let them know you want them to walk out with you to bring the cart back. If you are worried about dropping and breaking eggs you just bought and want the store employee to put those in the car for you, and jus that one item, then you can say that too! You get to decide what help you want and in what way.
- It’s okay to order all your groceries through apps and delivery services. If that is how you can best use your times and strengths to make sure you have food in your home, that’s all that matters.
The bottom line is you can decide how the help you may need is provided to you.
We know that these are just a few of MANY suggestions. If you have helpful suggestions feel free to post on social media and tag us, or to comment on our blog post.
We love engaging with our disability community and starting conversations that can help others who needed new ideas, support, or a sense of community for when things are going great and when things are going not so great!