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New study proves VISA not alone in failing the visually impaired

17% of partially sighted and blind avoid shopping due to poor facilities

Criticism aimed at VISA for failing to provide ATM's accessible to the visually impaired at the London 2012 venues echo the findings of new study from Cass Business School.

The study suggests up to 17% of visually impaired people do not engage in any form of shopping due to the stress caused by failures to accommodate their needs.

Produced in association with the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), the report concludes that shopping is one of the most stressful activities for visually impaired consumers.

Globally the number of visually impaired people is around 314 million and this figure is likely to double by 2030. These figures support the researchers' calls for more assistance from consumer bodies and public policy makers in accommodating the needs of the visually impaired.

Cass Professor of Consumer Marketing, Vincent-Wayne Mitchell says: "It is important that public policy and consumer bodies recognise the people who are excluded from the shopping experience. The fact that many companies have failed to accommodate the visually impaired at London 2012 is a prime example of the difficulties they face in day-to-day living.

"Moving forward, it is imperative that service staff in theatres, restaurants and shops are taught how to engage with visually impaired customers. More retailers should install tactile keypads on payment devices, provide assistance to retrieve merchandise and provide Braille product lists and menus. Retailers need to make it easier for visually impaired customers to order, browse and make choices."

In addition, the study examines the effect of activities like shopping on the wellbeing of the visually impaired. They found that visually impaired people with quality support networks and coping mechanisms were more likely to shop and that this led to a greater feeling of wellbeing.

Professor Ian Bruce, President of Cass Business School's Centre for Charity Effectiveness and Vice President of the RNIB explains: "A high degree of good quality social support through friends, family and social services makes a person feel better and makes them more eager to engage in activities such as shopping.

"A point of note is the type of support. The study found that support networks that made decisions for the visually impaired person had a negative impact on their wellbeing, the individual withdrew from the activity and became disengaged, whereas support networks that made choices with the visually impaired person had a positive effect, wellbeing and engagement increased."

The study used a sample of 675 blind and partially-sighted people and the evidence was collected by the RNIB[i]. Participants were identified from a sample drawn by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Interviewers visited people in their homes and conducted interviews of an average duration of 2.5 hours.

The study is available online.

[i] 2nd RNIB Needs Survey. (1997 - 2004) Director Professor Ian Bruce

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