The business case for low vision

Keyboard with hand touching key labelled 'accessibility'

3 May 2019
Source: Visualise Training and Consultancy

By Daniel Williams, Man on a Mission with Low Vision

When you’re in business, it’s often tempting to think only in the majority, dismissing those who may not fit into the ‘most people’ bracket as too expensive to cater for, and therefore affecting vital profit margins. Assumptions abound. People with low vision will have assistants and you will give a cheerful smile, apologise, and do your best to help.

But any good business owner should know, it’s when you embrace the wider sphere that you often win far more reward. And reputation precedes a business owner. It is gold dust.

It’s the biz

Even optometrists can fall wide of the mark when it comes to offering services for low vision customers. First, be aware of what is required. Forget lots of sympathy and apologies and become business-minded and practical. That doesn’t mean being brusque and abrupt, but showing you care, with empathy and engagement. Be engaging and understanding but not over sympathetic and demeaning.

Welcome customers with low vision, and with the right approach, making them feel they are coming into a comfortable environment. Don’t try to avoid common expressions like, ‘See you later’ or, ‘Nice to see you again’ which will make you sound nervous, alienating people. Create a positive and relaxed experience for both business and customer from the outset, which will always help raise your profile and lift profits.

Business is booming

Give thought to how you deliver your service to those with low vision. Getting familiar with the Equality Act may be a good place to start. Consider offering staff visual impairment awareness training and arrange an access audit of your premises. Many people without sight loss, wheelchair users, and mums and dads with pushchairs, will all welcome ease of access. You will attract customers too with your forward-thinking, inclusive approach.

People with sight loss or limited vision need to be able to get around, not be expected to bump around. They may be independent and unaccompanied, and when a customer feels valued, they return and tell their friends.

Many adaptations are low cost, such as a hand rail on stairways, clear signs, using contrasting colours and markings for steps or other obstacles. And don’t forget glass doors, a partially sighted person’s nightmare.

Business as usual

Having low vision doesn’t mean you don’t need the same information as anyone else. Offer brochures or instructions in large print and Braille. A magnifier is a must-have for many people with limited vision, but it isn’t always available at opticians or not in a very wide range. The same applies to sunglasses. Offer a high-quality range with different tints and watch the customers coming back for more.

There have been great advances in assistive technology for low vision patients, from video magnifiers to large print phones, and word of mouth spreads fast in business. Stocking simple optical aids can also make a big difference.

Adjustable lamps are a great help. Carefully consider aspects such as glare, sunlight, artificial light, combination and directed lighting. These can all make a huge difference to visual comfort and safety and will keep customers returning and referring.

Home is where the business is

Offering a home visit for patients with a visual impairment will be popular with many, including elderly people and welcomed by families who may feel obliged to give up a day’s work to help a relative.

Off to market

Update your marketing strategy. It’s fine to advertise to the general public but more focused areas such as health clinics and surgeries, local support groups and hospital areas where patients with low vision will visit regularly, is likely to bring in more customers who are seeking a modern, access-aware optometrist.

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