Assistive technology offers ‘Welcome’ solution for disabled shoppers during pandemic
A Scottish assistive tech firm is offering supermarkets across the country access to an innovative solution which the company says can remove the challenges faced by millions of disabled shoppers during the pandemic.
As the UK continues to adapt to the new norm of lockdown, supermarkets have taken action to the help reduce the risks of coronavirus spreading by introducing social distancing rules, queues and changing opening and closing times.
The measures have been taken to protect staff and shoppers alike, however, Gavin Neate, founder of tech company Neatebox, highlights that for those with disabilities, the new rules can present significant barriers to shopping for essentials.
“Supermarkets have had to adapt rapidly to an evolving situation, creating innovative ways to minimise the risk of viral spread,” he says.
“However, for millions, the new rules are impossible to follow without more support.”
According to Gavin, a specialist in assistive tech who founded his company after 18 years working with Guide Dogs UK, the recently introduced shopping conventions can pose a problem for people with visible and invisible disabilities alike.
“For individuals with autism, the rules can add an extra layer of anxiety. For someone who is blind, finding the end of the queue to enter the store is hugely difficult. Knowing where to stand on the two-metre-spaced markers and when to move forward is impossible without help, while social distancing is reliant on other people being aware,” he continues.
“Supermarkets have had to adapt quickly so there aren’t tactile markers or trained door staff able to effectively assist customers who require that level of additional support.”
In a bid to improve the accessibility of supermarkets for these individuals, Neatebox is offering the company’s unique digital solution to supermarkets to trial.
“Our technology, called ‘Welcome’, is designed to address inadequate customer support by alerting a venue to an individual’s visit in advance, outlining their specific requirements and, most importantly, providing staff with an overview of the customer’s condition and clear guidance on how to interact with that customer,” explains Gavin.
Crucially, this includes guidance from the appropriate charity to aid all interactions with the customer, including easy to follow top tips. The aim is to facilitate better communication between customers and staff to create long-lasting and mutually respectful relationships.
“75 per cent of disabled people have left a shop or deserted a business because of poor disability awareness or understanding,” continues Gavin.
“At present, the challenges are even greater for the 13 million disabled people living in the UK. We recognise the importance of immediate action and can install and deliver a trial of the system for free during the lockdown to help manage the disruptive effects of COVID-19.”
The ‘Welcome’ app is already used in a variety of venues across the UK, ranging from banks and offices to galleries and hotels and is available to all companies and premises of any type.
Siobhan Meade is blind and explains why the ‘Welcome’ technology is vital, especially during the current pandemic.
“I never feel as blind as I do when I stand somewhere I don’t know and can’t find staff help,” she says.
“Supermarkets create the biggest barrier to my independence. Sometimes we’ll be waiting for 30 minutes and often they seek to obtain the services of the youngest, newest and least able to communicate colleague and that was before the additional complexities of COVID-19. It’s so important that venues know that communications are central.
“At present, it isn’t necessarily possible to use online delivery. The creators of ‘Welcome’ know that their challenge is to install the app in new shops so that more people with all types of disability know it’s available and get genuine use out of it. If we can get this out there more widely, I’d head on to the high street and into shops more often.
“Knowing that I could head out to shops and, after lockdown, restaurants without being made to feel incapable would be amazing and give me a sense of control about how I want to be assisted.”https://thiis.co.uk/assistive-technology-offers-welcome-solution-for-disabled-shoppers-during-pandemic/https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Neatebox-Welcome.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Neatebox-Welcome.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1NewsroomSupplier NewsTrade Newscoronavirus,COVID-19,Gavin Neate,lockdown measures,Neatebox,pandemic,Scotland,social distancing,supermarket,WelcomeA Scottish assistive tech firm is offering supermarkets across the country access to an innovative solution which the company says can remove the challenges faced by millions of disabled shoppers during the pandemic.As the UK continues to adapt to the new norm of lockdown, supermarkets have taken action to...Calvin BarnettCalvin Barnettcalvin@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine