Shop makes changes to help customers with low vision

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Local businesses up and down the Wealthy Street corridor are slowly refiguring their layouts and services to make them more accessible to everyone.

Organizers with the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital are meeting with shop owners one at a time to educate them and increase access for those with low to nearly no vision.

“Those changes can be anything from moving some furniture out of the way for open pathways and adding some rugs and some different textures on the floor to determine where the entrance and the exit is,” said Josh Thomas, orientation and mobility instructor with ABVI.

Thomas also works with local schools to help students who are adjusting to new vision realities, as well as their parents.

The group uses vision simulators — goggles that replicate visual impairments — to demonstrate to shop owners and caretakers alike what those with low vision experience daily.

“It’s not 100% their visual impairment, but we can at least give them the idea of how they see the environment, how they’re able to locate some things on the wall or read a menu or read a book,” Thomas said.

After meeting with ABVI, Wealthy Street Bakery Operations Manager Ashley Havemeier reconfigured part of the popular bakery’s layout, added large-print menus as an option and, with the help of Mary Free Bed, created a Braille menu as well.

“It’s just opened our eyes to start seeing things too. Like, we have our menu written out, but we don’t have our drinks written out yet. They’re still on chalkboards up on the walls and a little bit harder to see,” Havemeier said. “So just figuring out what are other things that are still difficult to notice, difficult to see or read and less accessible and how to make updates and changes to those things too.”

ABVI has been serving the West Michigan community since 1913.

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