Deafblind People miss out in the High Street.

New research released last month reveals that one in four people with both significant hearing and sight loss have gone without food or medicine because shopping is currently so difficult for them.

Just under half of the 200 deafblind people surveyed said they felt "discriminated against" in the high street by being treated as second class customers or being refused service altogether.

The findings came as deafblind charities Sense and Deafblind U K launched a national campaign targeting over 35,000 high street shops and services, representing nearly one million employees, to highlight the needs of deafblind shoppers around the country.

See The Deafblind Person is aimed at stores, financial services and food and drink outlets. It forms part of the Government's See The Person campaign, which aims to change attitudes towards disabled people. Disability Minister Margaret Hodge, and newly appointed Disability Rights Commission chair Bert Massie, both spoke at the launch of the campaign on May 3.

"The estimated 23,000 people living in the U K who are both deaf and blind get a very raw deal, even when compared with other disabled people. It is crucial that people are made aware of their needs and rights as consumers", said Caroline Ellis, the campaign's co-ordinator.

"Making just a few small changes can make all the difference in enabling deafblind people to shop, bank or go out for a meal--something most people take for granted. The biggest barrier deafblind people in our survey said they face is staff attitudes. This makes it hard for them to get around and make informed choices about what they are buying. So we are delighted that 97 per cent of the leading retail chains and banks we have talked to have said they will provide staff assistance for deafblind people--even if it takes extra time."

Eight deafblind "advocates" have been touring towns and cities throughout the UK to visit well-known shopping centres and raise awareness of deafblind people's needs. Shops are also being encouraged to apply for a Deafblind Friendly Business Award that will mark their commitment to making their services accessible to people with both hearing and sight loss.

See The Deafblind Person also includes a poster campaign in shopping centres around the UK, together with a guide sent out to retailers entitled Serving your deafblind customers, explaining the best ways for staff to communicate with customers who have both significant hearing and sight loss.

This article was published in the New Beacon by The Royal National Institute for the Blind (Registered Charity no. 226227). on the June 2000 V84 No. 987.

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