“Game Changer”: Mobile app helps the visually impaired when shopping at Meijer

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – There is a mobile app that helps blind and partially sighted people to shop. In honor of Blindness Awareness Month, one user explained how it’s impacted him.

Casey Dutmer gets shopping help on his phone from an Aira app representative.

Casey Dutmer has been completely blind since birth. It used to be a lot easier to navigate grocery stores when I was growing up.

“When I was young, everything was very different. You had your big stores, but you also had a lot of smaller stores, and you could go into a store and ask the clerk for help, and most of the time
They could get it because it was a locally owned business,” he said. “It was more personal and service-oriented.”

As stores grew larger with more products, the experience became more difficult for shoppers like Dutmer.

Lately, he’s reliant on another source for instructions.

“I’m ready when you are,” the rep said on the phone.

“I’m ready,” Dutmer replied.

The service runs via Aira (Artificial Intelligent Remote Assistant). It is a apartment designed to help blind and partially sighted people access their daily needs.

The app connects users to a remote agent. Meijer partnered with the developer in the summer of 2020 to make the app available to blind and visually impaired buyers for free. It can be used in all branches.

The rep in the app guides users through their phone cameras to help them shop for items in the store.

Dumter starts shopping while being helped with where to go in the store.

“We’re excited to network and join forces and expand our reach and make sure everyone else has what they need within their reach,” said Katherine Lee Baker, diversity and inclusion manager at Meijer.

When Dutmer started shopping, the representative gave him various orders to direct him where to go, such as: “Keep walking, your way is clear.”

“It’s a real game changer,” said Brad Kaufman.

Businessman works with the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Grand Rapids. He enjoys seeing his clients become more independent.

“We want people to understand that blindness is not a living problem. Independence and gainful employment and other things that are taken for granted in the sighted world are very possible for blind and partially sighted people,” he said.

Though Dutmer cannot see, he says the agents are giving him a different perspective and reassuring him and his family.

“I didn’t know there were so many different products. I knew there were many products, but there were many things that I had never heard of that the agent would read to me,” he said. “It’s a calming app for my wife who gets excited and genuinely believes when I go somewhere
and if she gets tangled, she doesn’t have to worry.”

beauty brand Clean logic is working with the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired this month.

A portion of the proceeds from the purchase of Cleanlogic products in Meijer stores will go to ABVI to support a new employment program that will start in 2023.

“ABVI’s Employment Initiative is designed to help reduce the dramatically high unemployment rate among blind and partially sighted people in Michigan and beyond,” said Cassaundra Wolf, ABVI CEO. “We are truly grateful to partners like Cleanlogic for their support in our efforts to help people with visual impairments or blindness thrive in a sighted world.”

Isaac Shapiro, Cleanlogic Co-Founder, added, “We look forward to advancing our collective goals to help increase unemployment rates among the blind and visually impaired communities.”

To download the Aira app, visit aira.io.

https://www.woodtv.com/news/grand-rapids/free-mobile-app-helps-visually-impaired-shop-at-meijer/ "Game Changer": Mobile app helps the visually impaired when shopping at Meijer

Dais Johnston

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