Wegmans Food Markets has become the first grocer to offer cutting-edge technology to help visually impaired customers navigate the store.
The Rochester, N.Y.-based retailer's new Aira mobile app connects blind and low-vision shoppers with a remote agent who can see the environment through the customer's smartphone camera and help them locate the items they wish to find, as well as assist with navigation at the checkout area.
Linda Lovejoy, community relations manager for Wegmans, told Winsight Grocery Business that Aira contacted the retailer on its own and invited it to become the first grocery store to offer the technology, which will be available in all 97 of its stores beginning today.
The app is "just another tool in the toolbox" that will help its visually impaired customers gain independence while shopping, according to Lovejoy, who said that Wegmans' staff members are "still there to help" as well.
"We've always accommodated people," she said. "We've taken a grocery list and shopped for people and asked customers how they would like us to help them. If they want someone to go with them and read labels or take things down from high shelves or grocery shop [alongside] them, we've done that. It's whatever the person ultimately needs."
Lovejoy said Wegmans' implementation of the Aira technology is not the first step the company has taken to help those with disabilities better navigate the store. For example, in 2015 the retailer installed hearing loops at its registers, service desks and pharmacies to help those with hearing aids hear more clearly when engaging with employees.
Additionally, Wegmans offers a variety of carts to suit different needs, such as Caroline's Cart, which can accommodate older children with disabilities and carts that caretakers can push as the disabled customer sits in an attached chair.