Shortly before my second year of college, I received a few orientation and mobility lessons for learning how to navigate with low vision and a blindness cane. These lessons were helpful for learning general travel skills, but I noticed they didn’t get into specifics about navigating college campuses or using university resources available for students with vision loss. One lesson that would have been really helpful is how to receive on-campus deliveries and order items to my building as a blindness cane user, so I’ve created the College O&M series to share my most-used tips and strategies for learning about this topic and others. Here are my tips for how to request and receive campus deliveries for food, grocery pickup, and other same-day delivery services.
Can packages be delivered to dorms?
As nice as it is to be able to grab online packages from a doorstep, this is not an option for students living in on-campus housing for security reasons, and students are not permitted to use their dorm address as their mailing address. All packages and mail must be picked up from the mailroom, though students can arrange to pick up some items such as food, groceries, and other delivery services that do not rely on the postal service using other methods. Perishable items such as groceries cannot be delivered to the mailroom at most colleges, unless they include ice packs.
Delivering medication to dorms
Many national pharmacy chains offer delivery for select medications, but I had trouble using this service with the pharmacy near my college. This is because the delivery staff wouldn’t let me know when they had arrived or give me a specific delivery window, and the campus mailroom couldn’t accept these types of deliveries. Students who need medication delivered should consider using mail-order pharmacies that use the postal service, find a pharmacy close to campus, or consider getting a 60- or 90-day supply of long-term medication.
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Why I prefer getting items delivered
My college has a great public transportation system, but there are many reasons why I prefer to order items online and have them delivered to my dorm, including:
- I can place orders at night when I am awake and schedule them for a later time, or add items to my cart as I remember them
- I can’t carry a lot of groceries or heavy bags on public transportation while also carrying a blindness cane
- Buying items in bulk is often cheaper, and it’s more realistic for me to carry heavy items across the short distance from a neighboring building to my dorm vs walking from the grocery store
- I love to try restaurants around campus, but can’t always travel alone or at night
- When online shopping, I can filter items by price and other factors more easily than I can in stores, and I can also check ingredients of various food items
- I can look at what I have in my dorm and determine if I need more of something
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Paying for subscription services
Ridesharing services can be expensive and it is often cheaper for me to pay for delivery or same-day shipping compared to round-trip ridesharing fees. This also includes membership fees for delivery services such as Instacart, Shipt, UberEats, DoorDash, Amazon Prime, and similar same-day delivery services. I can’t recommend a specific delivery service as service quality and availability varies across geographic areas, but I recommend choosing 1-2 services that cover a wide variety of stores. For example, when I was living in Washington State for an internship, most stores I frequented were covered by Shipt.
Typing in an address for orders
Since delivery staff can’t get inside dorm buildings, I use a neighboring building as a delivery address when ordering groceries, take-out, or same-day delivery from Amazon. My dorm can be hard to locate with GPS applications and isn’t super accessible from the road, so I use a nearby Starbucks or similar location that I can walk to and that cars can get to easily.
Adding delivery instructions
Since I sometimes have trouble locating cars and delivery staff in the dark, I add additional instructions to my delivery notes that look something like this:
“I have low vision and use a blindness cane. I will be standing in front of Starbucks with my blindness cane and am wearing a green shirt. Please announce my name and identify yourself when approaching me, i.e ‘hey Veronica, this is your grocery order, I’m right in front of you.’ Thank you so much!”
In some cases, I will also ask the delivery driver to send me an additional message/notification when they are five minutes away.
Carrying items to my dorm
Since I use a blindness cane, I can’t really carry a package with two hands, and there are cases where I need to have both of my hands free. Some of the most common ways I would carry items back to my dorm include:
- Putting them inside my backpack
- Using a tote bag/reusable bag
- Asking a friend to go with me to carry something
- For larger items, I used a small handcart that I had purchased for my dorm and could push behind me
When I lived directly next door to the Starbucks I used for deliveries, I would sometimes leave my blindness cane in my room, since I could easily step back into my building and find my apartment without my blindness cane. If I had to cross traffic or navigate a busy area, I would always bring my cane with me.
More tips for receiving campus deliveries
- Some colleges offer the option of getting items delivered by robot- learn more in my post Campus Delivery Robots: College O&M
- For on-campus students, most colleges offer a “sick meals” program which allows students to get pre-packaged meals from dining services delivered to their dorm by an employee or another student, and is included as part of student meal plans. This is another option for getting food delivered for students who can’t leave their room due to illness
- When getting items delivered to the mailroom, it may take a few hours for a package to be processed in the mailroom after it is marked as delivered