How to go shopping if you’re blind or visually impaired

The holiday season is just around the corner, and many will begin their online shopping very soon. Nowadays we can find products on the Internet ranging from clothing and books to steaks and gourmet food. This has many advantages for everyone, but more so for blind and visually impaired or otherwise disabled individuals. Ironically though, those of us with vision loss often have to use trial and error to find shopping websites we can easily access. Many of the major online retailers are increasingly making their sites more accessible, and that means that we have more options. I will share some of the accessibility snags I have encountered as well as helpful features that allow blind and visually impaired individuals to have more positive experiences when shopping on the worldwide web.

What Makes Online Shopping Unique?

A lot of us love the convenience of ordering our items and getting them delivered to our door. This is a plus for people with disabilities, as it is often easier to get items delivered instead of having to transport them on a bus or cab. The fact that we can shop online 24/7 means we can buy things at our preferred time. Many websites also offer product descriptions and features, so we can often find what we need independently.

What Accessibility Difficulties Exist?

Screen-reading and magnifying software make it easier for people with vision loss to browse the Internet. Nevertheless, there are still “snags” we encounter when perusing online store aisles. These are just some of the most common difficulties I have encountered:

  • Unlabeled form fields. Form fields are the boxes where we enter our information, such as search keywords or credit card information. When these boxes are not labeled, my screen reading software cannot tell me where I should type in each piece of information – my name, credit card information, etc. By doing some guesswork I can usually figure out where things go, but this can be very time consuming.
  • Unlabeled links or graphics. Screen-readers are not able to read or describe pictures or other graphics to us. This means that if we come across a link with only an image, then we will have no clue where it is directing us to. By adding brief text descriptions, websites can make it easier to browse through the different products and parts of the website.
  • Cluttered homepages. There are times when I find out a webpage has many links to various products, offers, etc. This grabs the attention of sighted shoppers, but it can be tricky for blind and visually impaired users to navigate through the website.

Helpful Suggestions

Many of the accessibility challenges can be easily eliminated by a few simple tips, both for users and web developers:

  • Include headings. Even if a website has many links, separating different sections and categories by headings helps organize a website. That way we can use our screen-reader’s heading “hotkey” to better navigate through the page.
  • Users should be familiar with the screen-reader’s “find” function. This can help you easily search for and find a keyword on the page. By typing in a phrase like “shopping cart” you will easily locate it rather than reading through each line on the page to find it.
  • Users should also be familiar with their screen-reader’s links “hot key.” By bringing up a list of the available links, you can easily navigate through and find the link you want to select. Again, this can be quicker than navigating line by line.

Major online retailers such as Amazon and Target have made it easier for blind and visually impaired shoppers to find and purchase things. By making simple changes to the design and layout of websites, online retailers can help us shop quickly and easily. It is also important for blind and visually impaired to be familiar with the various navigation commands of their screen-readers or other software. This can help you have a more positive experience when doing your online shopping and enjoy the convenience of browsing virtual stores. For more information and examples about accessible retail websites, check out this edition of AccessWorld, a publication from the American Foundation for the Blind. Happy shopping to all!

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

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.

Here at Sight and Sound we are committed to finding the best solutions which make a difference to the lives of individuals who are either blind or visually impaired.
In addition to the tailored products and training which we provide our customers, we are constantly striving to provide guidance and support which can add value to our customers. One of the things we are often asked is how to go about registering as a person that is blind or partially sighted.
Registering as blind or visually impaired can open up a number of benefits which you will be entitled to, including:

  • Blind person’s personal income tax allowance
  • Reduction of 50% on your television license fee
  • Car parking schemes, such as the blue badge scheme which can be used in any vehicle that you are travelling in
  • Free loan of radio, CD players and CDs
  • Free postage on articles marked as “articles for the blind”

That is why we have put together this short guide to give you five simple steps to register as blind or partially sighted.
Step 1
To register for either, you can choose to register with either your eye consultant or your GP. The reason you must go to an eye specialist is because first of all an ophthalmologist must certify that your eyesight cannot be improved medically (through glasses, surgery etc). The registration is entirely confidential.
Step 2
Your doctor will confirm which level of registration applies to you. There are two levels of registration:

  • Severely sight impaired (blind)
  • Sight impaired (partially sighted)

Step 3
The eye specialist will then send copies of your certificate to your doctor and your local social services operations.
Step 4
You’ll receive this letter in the post, but please note this is not the final step to becoming registered as blind or partially sighted.
Step 5
You must then confirm that you wish to be included on the register of blind and partially sighted. It is after you confirm, at this point, that you are registered.

If you would like more information on any of the issues raised in this blog then please get in touch and you might also be interested in our blog 10 things to know about losing my sight .

To be totally honest, I never really thought about designing websites that people with visual impairments can easily access until I had to start inching my laptop further away to take the latest Buzzfeed Quiz on Facebook®. (I’m sorry, Dad, I shouldn’t have made fun of you about enlarging the font on your computer.)

What would you say if I told you that it’s likely that 12 percent of the U.S. population probably cannot or will not go to your website, regardless of how awesome you are? Let’s put that another way: 6.7 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 75 will not see your Web work. If that doesn’t bother you, it’s like not caring if anyone in Massachusetts has access to your amazing website content.

You care, right? And you can bet the nearly 7 million Americans who are blind and visually impaired do.

“The Internet is tremendously important in our daily lives, including the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. We check the news, sports, weather, and stocks, engage in social networking, and make banking transactions and travel plans alongside fully sighted friends.”

Understanding screen readers

How to go shopping if you're blind or visually impairedMore and more visually impaired people are utilizing screen readers to access the Internet daily. The American Foundation for the Blind defines screen readers as “software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer.” You learn more about how screen readers work here.

As website designers, if we create sites that screen readers can easily scan and read back to the user, we’ve taken a big step toward doing our jobs more effectively. Here are six tips for optimizing sites for screen readers:

Be descriptive

Image ALT Tags are there for a reason. Screen readers have yet to develop a personality, so they can only describe what they can read. Be informative, but be brief. If you’re tagging an image of a black cat holding a “congratulations” sign, make sure you translate that visual message into a descriptive yet succinct written tag. A tag that reads something like “black cat holding congratulations sign” will give the visually impaired user an experience more aligned with that of a sighted user.

Allow user control

Create user controls for moving objects such as slideshows. Screen readers struggle with moving objects, and people with visual difficulties might find them difficult to read. And while we’re on the subject of movement … it’s time to get rid of the landing page. They confuse screen readers, the visually challenged, and they annoy everyone else.

Be concise

Websites are not the place to exercise our finest vocabulary; rather it’s best if we write clearly and simply. Like we discuss in this post, in general, you want to write for an average third-grade comprehension level. And be sure to double-check your spelling and grammar; screen readers just read what they see. Translation tools will thank you, too.

Use a flowchart

Clear navigation is key. You’ll find if you start with a flowchart, it will change along the way, but it will help keep you on track and ensure that the site stays organized and easy to navigate for any user. Here’s a good example at webdesignerdepot.com.

Plus, the Web Content Accessibility guidelines from W3C® recommend that your links DO NOT open in a separate window or tab automatically as it is confusing to the user.

Consider Internet Explorer

Although dropping in popularity in the general population, Internet Explorer® is still the No. 1 browser for people using a screen reader. In fact, some screen reader users are still using IE versions all the way back to IE6. Here’s a great tool to test your site for compatibility across IE: modern.IE.

Don’t rely on color

This will make my color-blind husband happy: don’t rely on color to tell your story. Affecting about one out of every 12 men and one in 200 women worldwide, color blindness makes it tough to discern certain colors of the spectrum (especially red and green). Check out Colour Blindness: Experience It for multiple links to learn more about optimizing your site to accommodate color-blind users.

It’s never too late to start designing websites for everyone to enjoy.

Do you have any tips or tricks for designing sites for the blind and visually impaired? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

How to go shopping if you're blind or visually impaired

Nancy King

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Future Aids

Touch Tomorrow
in Today’s Products

*A green company, Family owned & operated*

Welcome! Thanks for stopping by the Braille Superstore. We have tons of Braille books and cool products to choose from; so grab a cup of coffee, relax, and we’ll give you a quick tour.

Timekeeping
What time is it? If you or someone you know is always asking this question, perhaps you should check out our complete line of Timekeeping products. We have a wide array of talking clocks and watches – some basic, some loaded with features. Starting at just $7.95, we carry elegant timepieces to suit every taste and fit every budget.

Housewares
Looking for some helpful aids to make day-to-day tasks easier and more fun? In the Housewares department, you’ll find: adapted timers and cooking instruments – everyone needs to eat! Braille Slates and Digital recorders – for writing down notes, recipes and phone numbers. Lots of labeling items – to mark everything from clothes and cans to ovens and food. Talking calculators, thermometers and scales, Braille rulers, MP3 Players – and many more goodies.

On the Go
Leave your home prepared and confident . every time! Select the desired length of white cane and pick out the perfect tip for it. Grab a special wallet to keep your bills separated, a signature guide to help you sign receipts and a fanny pack to keep your hands free. Finally, brows our line of affordable digital recorders so all the information you need is right at your fingertips. Now, the next time you’re On the Go , you’ll be ready!

Low Vision Products
Okay – so you’ve still got enough vision to read ink-print – if it’s just made a bit larger. It sounds like our extensive collection of Low Vision Products are for you! In this area, you can pick out your favorite magnifiers, writing guides, bold pens – all those essential daily living aids for anyone who’s visually impaired.

Toys and Games
Hours of fun for everyone! Don’t forget to visit our Toys and Games section! Here, you’ll find a card table with Braille playing cards, dominoes, and dice . board games like Chess, Checkers, and Connect Four . and wooden brain teasers such as Solitaire, Lost Marble, and 3D puzzles. There’s even a toy aisle for kids stocked with Braille building blocks, Wikki Stix, and raised-line drawing boards . as well as a sporting goods section with audible balls, sound beacons, and more.

Gift Shop
In search of that perfect gift, but don’t know what on Earth might work? Why not stop by our Gift Shop for some terrific gift ideas. There, you’ll find Braille jewelry, calendars, chocolate molds, magnets, bookmarks, key chains – and gift certificates if you’re not sure what to get.

Braille Workshop
All right, folks! If you want to learn Braille, pick up some cool new knick-knacks to intrigue your friends, or need some Braille writing supplies, you should drop into our Braille Workshop . Here, four separate tables have been set up to cater to the needs of Braille readers young and old, experienced or not. With intro booklets, flash cards, charts, and a bunch of brand-new Braille teaching toys, the first two tables will help you learn the alphabet and get others excited about reading by touch. For those more familiar with Braille, or if you’re doing a project on this ingenious system of dots, you won’t want to miss the other tables, either. They’re stacked with piles of Braille hand-outs, lots of great new ideas like alphabet buttons and name cards, and a full compliment of Braille slates, paper, labels, and other necessities.

Braille Bookstore
Are you searching for that Braille book your child’s always wanted to get his hands on? Perhaps you’d like to build up your very own library with the best Braille titles around. Or maybe you’re one of those avid bookworms who likes to relax for a little while by the fire with a nice, long book? Well, it sounds like the wide selection of Braille books in our Braille Bookstore might be a good place to start.

Greeting Cards
The perfect thing to go along with any gift! Check out our huge selection of Print/Braille Greeting Cards For any holiday or occasion.

If you’re looking for a smoking good deal, check out our
Clearance Corner.

Copy Center
There’s something else you may want to consider while you’re here. Our in-house Copy Center is the one-stop solution for all your Braille production needs. There, you can have your menus or brochures converted into Braille, get Braille embossed on your business cards, and order ADA-compliant Braille signs.

Computer Lab
Do you have a blind friend who’s new to computers? Or do you know someone who simply can’t afford one of those expensive screen reading packages? Well . MarvelSoft’s talking software, found in our Computer Lab , is the answer! Talking Toolbox costs just $75, and it’ll turn any ordinary computer into a talking machine a blind person can use to do Email, word processing, maintain an address book and calendar, and so much more. Ah, so now you’re thinking: “Yes that sounds really cool, but my friend doesn’t know how to type . “? MarvelSoft also offers another hugely popular software package, Talking Typing Teacher, to take care of that one!

Popular Products
If you’re looking for some quick shopping ideas, check out our Popular Products display rack. These items are always in hot demand, so you and your friends are sure to find something you like here.

New Products
Are you a frequent customer of ours, always wondering what New Products have just become available? Here’s your chance to find out!

April 27, 2020. All our staff are healthy, and Future Aids remains proudly open. Regular office hours are still in effect, but may be reduced in the coming weeks in response to decreased demand. Due to plastic shortages in our area we have run out of book covers, so will be binding books with dual Braille paper covers until the middle of May. Though we aren’t expecting incoming shipments any time soon, we still have plenty of inventory on hand to fulfill orders. As usual, any products that are out of stock will be clearly marked as such on the website. Though we are shipping orders promptly (within one business day of receipt), carrier delivery times may be longer than usual. We thank you for your patronage throughout this difficult time, and look forward to serving you for many years to come.

You wouldn’t think of signing a credit card receipt
without knowing the amount charged to the card,
and you’d never pay with cash and not know how
much money you gave the sales clerk and how
much you change you got back.

But, to one degree or another, that is pretty much how
most transactions go for the blind and visually impaired.

Rod Rice reports.

To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

A recent survey found that out of 171 countries only one has paper currency that is all the same size and all the same color. The good ole us. This means that the blind and visually impaired need coping mechanisms to engage in commerce. Oh and trust too. Lots of trust. Madeline Spring of Ft. Worth, folds her bills.

“I don’t fold my ones at all, I fold my fives half over and I fold my ten’s lengthwise. I fold my twenty’s length wise and fold them back over.”

That worked until her eyesight worsened and now she needs someone to tell her initially what kind of bills she has. Now trust is a factor. Like the time she used a twenty, folded length wise and then back over, to buy something.

“I said and this is a twenty and he said no ma’am that’s a ten. You know somebody gave it to me and told me it was a twenty or that man took it and said no it’s a ten.”

John Grosnick of Houston relies on help from his wife, otherwise…

“The credit card is what I use.”

But he can’t really see the card receipt he has to sign.

“I’m trusting them that they’re going to be doing the right thing.”

And people always do the right thing — don’t they.

Christy Plazinich is the receptionist at The Lighthouse of Houston, a non-profit rehabilitation center for the blind and visually impaired. She used to simply separate her paper money.

“Before I got this wallet I would just put it in different parts of my wallet.”

She now uses a wallet designed for the blind that has compartments with flaps that looks like three separate change holders.

“This part here’s for different amounts of money depending on what you have, like ones, fives or tens.”

Technology can help here. Money readers are an inch thick a bit wider and another inch longer than a dollar bill. You slide the bill into it and a in a second or two.

“Five,” it tells you the denomination.

Debbie Ramos with Lighthouse of Houston gave me the demonstration.

“In your experience are these in wide use?”

“We have a lot of interest, people coming in here asking for it, but then they find out the price and that’s a deterrent because it’s three hundred dollars.”

All of this shows way people with limited or no vision are very interested in the federal court ruling that the U.S. Treasury must change our money so everyone can engage equally in commerce. In fact, Attorney Scott Lemond says the court said treasury should look into making technological devices to aid the blind more available.

“But in addition to that type of study the court said the treasury department needs to manufacture money differently. Money has to change.”

Lemond says there is a reason cases like this don’t generate a lot of popular support or indignation that such a civil right could go unaddressed for so many.

“Unlike other types of discrimination, if you’re talking about race discrimination, or age discrimination or sex discrimination, you’re usually taking about some kind of hatred or dislike. With disability discrimination that type of emotion doesn’t exist.”

Lemond says this case now is back at the trial court and will likely end up in the supreme court with a final resolution taking years. Meanwhile the blind and visually impaired must rely on trust in the market place.

First aired June 16, 2008.

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As we mentioned earlier, it is difficult these days to search for any consumer product without finding an Amazon link near the very top of your search results. One of the reasons for this state of affairs is that, along with Amazon’s own inventory of products, they also allow other merchants to sell their goods, new and used, through the Amazon website, so in effect you are shopping the selection of tens of thousands of large and small online merchants.

The Amazon website is quite accessible as is, but the company has also extended considerable efforts to make the shopping experience less daunting for screen reader users. Whenever you log onto the main webpage while running a screen reader, you will encounter the following message:

We have recently updated the screen reader optimized website to include headings, landmarks, and new shopping features to improve your experience. Please follow this link or go to www.amazon.com/access.

The standard Amazon webpage can be quite cluttered. It’s easy to get lost amid all the extra links touting products similar to the one you searched for, products purchased by people who also purchased the product you searched for, and additional products Amazon thinks you might wish to buy, judging from your search and purchase history. The accessible platform cleans up a lot of this clutter. It also makes it quite easy to navigate and find the links and controls you want using your screen reader’s special keyboard commands, such as Find Next Heading, Next Button, Next List, and Next List Item. See your screen reader documentation for a list of these handy keyboard commands.

The Amazon App

You can search and purchase from Amazon using either a computer browser or the browser installed on your mobile device (usually Chrome or Firefox for Android devices and Safari for Apple iOS). But at the top of each product page you will see a link: “View in the Amazon app.” Amazon offers apps for both Android and iOS.

These apps are not quite as screen-reader friendly as the accessible website. There are several places where the swiping command does not work and you have to use Explore by Touch to find a button or other control. Nonetheless there are several reasons why you might prefer shopping on one of the Amazon mobile apps:

  • Each mobile app includes a Voice Search option. Invoke this option and the app will listen as you speak the name of the product you are searching for, then, when you are done, automatically begin a search and then display the results.
  • The app offers one-button access to your Amazon shopping cart, wish lists, and order history.
  • You can set up shipping alerts and receive text messages when your order has been shipped, when it reaches your local carrier, and shortly after the order has been delivered to your doorstep.
  • If there is a problem with your order, or if you have a question, the Contact link will lead you directly to an e-mail link or you can have Amazon call you. Callbacks almost always arrive in just a few seconds.

The Amazon Fire Tablets

Amazon wants you to shop with them so much, they designed an Amazon Fire line of tablets, with extensive integration to Amazon stores and other services. We mentioned the Fire tablets in the reading guide and the entertainment guide.

The Amazon Fire tablets use a slightly modified version of the Android operating system, and they are made voice accessible using a modified version of Talkback. We reviewed the Amazon Fire extensively in the March 2014 issue of AccessWorld.

Subscribe and Save

If there is a product you purchase regularly, such as multivitamins, pet food, or laundry detergent, you can have Amazon automatically deliver that product every month, two months, or any other time frame you wish. Prices on Subscribe and Save items are usually slightly discounted. Subscribe and Save is an excellent way to purchase shelf-stable grocery items, such as canned vegetables and cooking oil. You will receive an e-mail a few days before each order ships that includes a “Skip this delivery” link, in case you still have plenty left. You can subscribe to special deal offer e-mails, and best of all, those groceries will come right to your door—a real treat if your local grocers do not yet offer delivery.

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime is a membership service that currently costs $99 per year, with a free 30-day trial. Students can receive a free six-month trial.

The marquee feature of Amazon prime is that for millions of items, you will receive free two-day shipping. Overnight shipping costs an extra $4.99. If you become a frequent Amazon customer, the Prime membership will pay for itself in cab fare and shopping-assistant savings.

Prime members also receive access to Amazon Instant Videos (see the entertainment guidefor more information) and a vast Prime members Kindle books lending library (see the reading guide for more on Kindle books).

September 29, 2016

Early voting for the 2016 elections began today in Illinois. This is a good opportunity for those that have already decided who they will vote for to cast their ballot ahead of time and avoid the long lines on November 8 th . People who are blind or visually impaired have options for voting independently. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Help America Vote Act of 2002 guarantee equal access for voters with disabilities. Like everyone else, voters with vision loss can vote in person or cast an absentee ballot by mail. We can either have a trusted friend or family member help us fill out the ballot, or – when voting in person at the polling place – use accessible voting machines.

Absentee Voting

People with vision loss can request an absentee ballot, which they will complete and return to their election office by mail. While a major advantage of this is that voters can do this at home and during their own time, the drawback is that they will need a person with sight to fill out the ballot for them. Still, this may be a good option for those who will not be able to cast their vote on Election Day, or who are unable to leave their home because of health or other circumstances. Although some states are beginning to make online ballots available, this is still an uncommon practice.

Voting in Person

By voting in person – either during early voting or on Election Day – voters with vision loss can take advantage of the accessible voting systems available to people with disabilities. Once at his or her local polling place, a voter can request to use an accessible voting machine. These machines offer both touch screen and audio ballots. The audio ballot can be accessed by connecting a special keypad and headset to the machine. Voters can adjust the speed and volume of the speech and make their selections. People with low vision can use the touch screen ballot and adjust the print size and contrast.

Unfortunately, voters with vision loss might encounter times when poll workers are unfamiliar with setting up accessible voting equipment. This happened to me when I voted for the first time in 2008. Thankfully, the staff was able to figure it out after a few minutes, but this is not always the case. Voters who are unable to access the special equipment, or who would prefer to have someone read the ballot, can have it read to them. They can either have a trusted friend or family member or poll worker read and mark their ballot. While this might be a good option for some, I encourage voters to use the accessible equipment whenever possible, as this gives us full independence and privacy.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to vote and elect my government officials. This is a privilege and right that all Americans should exercise. Thanks to comprehensive legislation and modern technology, voters with vision loss can participate in elections independently and privately. If you would like more information about the resources available to voters with vision loss or other disabilities, visit this page from the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Have you voted in past elections using the accessible voting equipment? Please share your experiences with our readers!

How to go shopping if you're blind or visually impairedSandy Murillo works at The Chicago Lighthouse, an organization serving the blind and visually impaired. She is the author of Sandy’s View, a bi-weekly Lighthouse blog about blindness and low vision. The blog covers topics of interest to those living with blindness and vision impairments. Being a blind journalist and blogger herself, Sandy shares her unique perspective about ways to live and cope with vision loss.