In my summer intern housing, I live within walking distance of an awesome farmer’s market with lots of local products and amazing produce. Since I started going to the market weekly, I’ve learned a lot about navigating farmer’s markets with low vision, including how to identify items, balancing bags while holding my blindness cane, and using assistive technology. Here are my tips for going to a farmer’s market with low vision. These tips were written with outdoor markets in mind, but can also work for indoor markets.
Look at a map online before going
One of the things that helped me a lot before going to the farmer’s market for the first time was looking at a map of the market online. I was able to figure out common landmarks for the area such as large structures and statues, as well as learn how booths were set up. Plus, it was helpful to know where I could find market staff if I needed assistance finding something.
- Blindness Canes and Building Identification: Navigating College Campuses
- School Field Trips And Low Vision
- How To Create High Resolution Images For Users With Low Vision
If possible, use a blindness cane that can be stepped on without damage
Whenever I go to the farmer’s market, I bring my large ball-tip blindness cane, because I find it’s easier to use when navigating uneven terrain and it doesn’t get stuck. Plus, people can accidentally step on it or kick it without it causing any damage to the cane- something that is very common when I am in large crowds with children and pets running around.
- Decoding The Tips of Blindness Canes
- How To Order Custom Colors for Blindness Canes
- Blindness Canes and Construction: Navigating College Campuses
Check out vendors on social media
Most of the vendors at the farmer’s market have large print signs or friendly staff that can help with selecting products, though I also like to check out vendor pages on social media so that I can read a digital list of products or see what the most exciting products are for the day. Social media pages also often include descriptions of products, which is great for learning about unfamiliar foods or specialty ingredients.
- How To Add Alt Text On Social Media
- How To Make Your Instagram Feed Accessible For Visual Impairment
- Seven Elements Of Accessible Store Layouts for Vision Impairment
Use apps such as Google Lens or Seeing AI to identify items
I use Google Lens all the time for identifying plants and other items when I am at different places, and especially at the farmer’s market. I can point my Android phone’s camera at a food item and have my phone tell me what it is using the image recognition tool, which is super helpful when trying to figure out if I am holding a cucumber or zucchini. I’ve also used Seeing AI on iOS to identify different fruits and vegetables once I was back in my intern housing.
- Using the Google Assistant Camera with Low Vision
- Microsoft Seeing AI And Low Vision Review
- Ten Questions To Ask For Hotel Room Familiarization
Bring a backpack or bag with a crossbody strap
One of the smartest things I ever brought to the farmer’s market was my empty backpack, because I could easily put items in different compartments and still remain hands-free so I could use my blindness cane. When I went to the market with my friends, they brought a duffel bag with a crossbody strap that they could use hands-free, which worked equally as well.
- Choosing A Backpack With Low Vision
- Twelve Blindness Cane Storage Solutions
- Choosing A Backpack With Chronic Pain
Have a way to easily identify cash
Some of the farmer’s markets I have been to are cash-only, so I would go to the ATM or get cash back at the grocery store before heading to the market. Since I have trouble identifying currency with my vision impairment, I use the bill folding method or the iBill currency reader I got for free from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Whenever possible though, I use my credit card for buying things at the farmer’s market as it is easier than paying with cash.
Some markets allow people that use EBT SNAP benefits to purchase items from the farmer’s market. At my local market, this can be done by going to the main desk of the farmer’s market and getting a special card or coins to use with vendors, though every market is different.
- How Do People With Visual Impairments Identify Money?
- How Web Accessibility Impacts My Life With Low Vision
Make sure items won’t spill or get squished in transport
Remember how I mentioned bringing my backpack earlier? Well, one day I wasn’t paying attention to how I was packing items and managed to empty an entire bag of cherries into my backpack. By some miracle, they were not squished, but I was finding cherries in random places in my backpack for several days afterwards. Now, I make sure that everything is stored upright and that fragile items aren’t placed on the bottom of the bag where they can be squished by other products.
I love going to the farmer’s market and am grateful to have access to lots of fresh and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s also a great way for me to support local farmers and try new foods that I might not have found at my local grocery store. I hope these tips for going to farmer’s markets with low vision are helpful for others who want to explore their community and support local businesses in the process.