Can’t see. Will shop.

Why do we shop?
For some, shopping is about the process of buying something.

But for many, shopping is a stress reliever. It rejuvenates one’s mood & makes one happy.

While you may take the experience to shopping to be exciting, this is not same for person with visual impairment.

They can’t glance over the counter and pickup something that attracts the eyes. Neither can they just stroll in a shopping center or mall and take in all the beautifully displayed windows.

I know. I experience the huge difference of shopping with and without vision each time I shop alone; I could see once and took in everything, but now that I’m blind, the experience is distinctly different.

But this was made possible even for persons with visual impairment by Big Bazaar’s initiative named Looking Ahead on World Disability Day in Mumbai and six other cities parallelly.

We organized three unique workshops with Big Bazaar and NAB Delhi as part of this initiative.
The first was titled “Eye for Fashion”. Participants got to touch, feel, learn and admire different styles and types of attire. Palazzo, short or long kurta, multi layered dress or frock style kurta, cape or a shrug – they touched all of them. Learning about various types of festive pants, studded denim, ripped off denim, or low waist skinny fit denim enhanced their understanding of elements of fashion.

Volunteers enthusiastically explained various combinations of clothing, matching colour, tips on matching appropriate jewellery and footwear to each participant.
While I was demonstrating dungrees to participants individually, one of them said “is it something like a seat belt?” another said “OH! I never knew that a dungree looks like this.” Initially few of them found it complicated, but when they held the way it is worn they were thrilled to learn about it.

The experience of touching and understanding different types of ear rings, neck piece, bracelets and footwears was well appreciated. They got to learn the difference between casual, formal, party wear, etc.

One of the participants requested for an umbrella dress. The store employee promptly got one for her. The sparkle in her eyes and smile on her face was powerful enough to create multi fold ripple effect on everyone around. She even tried the same instantly and felt as one of her dream was fulfilled. Couple of other participants got to try dresses and got their beauty enhanced by a trained makeup artist and posed for pictures with utmost joy.

Post this, we held the “You Look Beautiful” beauty workshop. Here, participants got to learn about cosmetics and body care. They were made aware about different types of hair shampoo & conditioners, hair oils, body lotions, creams etc. They learnt to be aware about their own hair, skin type and ways to take care of themselves along with tips to consider while shopping appropriately. Mobile apps like “eye d”, “Seeing AI” were demonstrated to read the bottle labels, identify colours as part of the workshop.

Then came the makeup empowering section. While preparing for the workshop and over various conference calls even I learnt about primer, concealer etc. This was totally new for most of us. Learning about cleanser, toner, moisturising creams, applications & importance was highly knowledgeable. We touched and felt the unique texture of compact.

Participants got hands-on in applying kajal and lipstick & practiced techniques for the same. During this they learnt about various types of lipsticks, tips on choosing appropriate shade for themselves. Each of them got their choice lipstick as a gift from Big Bazaar.

On the next day, we held the “Cooking with Looking” workshop. This was flagged off with learning about various sections in a kitchen, safety, hygiene, importance and methods of being organised for the visually impaired.

Various electronic kitchen appliances were demonstrated. Each participant got an opportunity to touch, feel and get oriented to appliances like rice cooker, multipurpose kettle, induction cook top with appropriate utensil, sandwich maker and most appreciated product chopper.

Many of the participants were seeing these products for the first time. They were scared to use them practically. We made them understand a simple concept that one can’t learnt riding bicycle without falling from it. Similarly risk of getting burnt does prevail while cooking but can be avoided by being more cautious and organised. Also using all our other senses to its fullest enhances our ability of cooking.

Small information such as only the centre circle of an induction cook top gets heated or the rice cooker turns off automatically as rice is cooked were highlights of learning. Groups of participants even got hands on live cooking practice. One group made carrot halwa using a rice cooker another boiled milk and prepared tea using induction cook top. Yet another group learnt how easily they could chop onions and other vegetables using the chopper, using which they prepared vegetable sandwich.

Big Bazaar team, along with participants and volunteers tasted the cooked food. Everyone cherished and enjoyed each moment of the workshop from orienting to cooking to tasting.

Big Bazaar team introduced and gifted each participant a running “Tether”. A band used by visually impaired runners in Paralympics or marathons. Volunteers teamed up with participants and demonstrated usage of Tether. Learning about it added new avenues to each participants excitement.

The experience for me as a trainer was overwhelming. Participants were unwilling to leave the training area. Everyone requested to conduct more such workshops. Many of them shopped using the accessible shopping assistance provided by Big Bazaar and shared their positive experiences.

Big Bazaar created an independent, dignified, inclusive, sensitised atmosphere enabling visually impaired to shop alone. I am sure this will create a new era in lives of visually impaired and bring an attitude paradigm shift in the retail industry.