By Jo Fishwick
As a blind person, shopping has been something that I do out of necessity and not really for pleasure. If I need new clothes, I usually have an idea of what I want and where I might find it. I’m usually accompanied by my husband or daughter, who are both fully sighted.
When a friend who has a small amount of vision suggested a shopping trip for pleasure, I really wasn’t convinced but when I realised I needed a pair of shoes to go with an outfit for a party, I agreed to go.
So off we went to Exeter. We travelled to St. Thomas my friend with her long cane and me with my guide dog. Fortunately my friend had been to this shopping area before and with her limited vision and my pooch finding doors to shops, we browsed T K Max and Next, where I got to try on some gorgeous shoes, a weakness of mine :) . We had some great assistance in Marks and Spencer and sat and had a relaxing lunch together.
Feeling quite good about ourselves but still not having found the right shoes, we decided to walk into Exeter town centre. We asked for directions and weren’t doing too badly at all. Until we got a bit lost. I thought my guide dog might get really stressed with us retracing our steps but he stepped up to the mark and stayed calm and wonderfully focussed. Using a combination of maps on my iPhone and asking plenty of passers by, we finally found our way to the main stretch of shops. I must emphasise that having a friend with me, meant that we could laugh about our mistakes and wrong turns. Had I been alone, I think I’d have been calling my hubby to come and fetch me before I had a melt down.
We browsed plenty of shops and had a much needed stop for tea and cake. I finally found the perfect shoes and feeling very pleased with ourselves, we made our way back to St. David’s station this time and tired but content, we travelled home.
I should point out that our shopping trip took a full day and had we been with someone sighted, it would probably have been over much quicker. However, we had a lovely day and had allowed ourselves the whole day, so we wouldn’t need to rush or panic buy. We probably attracted some amused glances at times too, with my friend using her magnifier to try and read prices and me using Seeing AI or Tap Tap See to identify colours. The truth is though is that we didn’t care. We were being independent and will definitely go shopping together again.