The Sunflower recognises that visiting the shops can be a daunting and difficult experience for many people with invisible disabilities. Supermarket shopping can be particularly troublesome for people with visual impairments. If you are blind, or partially sighted, navigating your way around the aisles, locating products, finding departments or facilities has, up until now, been problematic. This is why Asda, a member of the Sunflower network, has announced that it is expanding its trial of a new technology which will make it easier for blind and partially sighted customers to find their way around an Asda store whilst they do their weekly food shop. The supermarket chain has teamed up with GoodMaps, a technological solution that seeks to improve navigation through the use of an app. By implementing this technology Asda aims to make their stores accessible for all customers.

What is GoodMaps?

GoodMaps allows customers with visual impairments to shop autonomously, making their shopping experience less daunting, more efficient and enhancing their independence.

The app is able to pinpoint a customer’s location to within a meter of accuracy and communicate directions to an object, or area, via audio, enlarged visual and touch commands. Shoppers using the app can search for key landmarks within the store such as the pharmacy, bathrooms, café and tills. The app can also be used to search for specific product categories, in order to guide the customer as close as possible to the item they are looking for.

Although, initially intended for people with visual impairments; GoodMaps has proven beneficial to anyone who needs directions and support in navigating.

However you choose to shop, whether that’s assisted or independently. Using the GoodMaps app, you can now be guided to all product ranges and available in-store services with ease in participating Asda stores.

Which Asda stores will this technology be available in?

Following an initial trial at Asda’s designated Technology-Innovation store in Stevenage, the UK’s third largest grocer is integrating a further 10 stores into the GoodMaps smartphone app.

The new stores to be compatible with GoodMaps navigation technology will be:

  • Blackburn
  • Caerphilly
  • Hulme
  • Totton
  • York
  • Killingbeck
  • Milton Keynes
  • Aintree
  • Queslett
  • Wembley.

Neil Fairclough, Senior Director of Retail Transformation Asda said: “The trial at our Stevenage store showed us that this technology can really make a difference to customers who previously had difficulty navigating the aisles whilst shopping. The value of these trials is that we can take the learnings from each step and better integrate the technology as we go further into the trial phase, ensuring an even better experience for our customers and colleagues in these trial stores.” 

Neil Barnfather, VP Europe for GoodMaps said: “Empowering people to get around autonomously, on their terms, and in a manner of their choosing, has been an aspirational goal for decades. GoodMaps Infrastructure-free technology delivers upon something that is so often taken for granted; to just be able to go and access a location without after thought. Asda’s unrivalled commitment to breaking down barriers to inclusion revolutionises how our community can perform a fundamental basic need, to be able to buy your weekly shop. We look forward immensely to continuing to expand the reach of the GoodMaps technology in partnership with Asda.” 

Marc Powell, RNIB Accessibility Innovation Lead, said: “We know that shopping can be a challenge for blind and partially sighted people, from navigating a store, to locating and understanding products. That is why it’s so great to see an influential retailer such as Asda proactively championing accessibility through technology like GoodMaps. 

This is an encouraging step forward in creating a more inclusive world and an example of how improving accessibility for people with sight loss can actually enhance the customer experience for everyone. 

We urge all retailers to ensure accessibility is truly a priority so that new technology and advancements are used to improve the retail experience for people with disabilities and prevent inequality from spreading.”

We hope that the trial in the 10 participating stores leads to the GoodMaps app being rolled out across the Asda store network and that other supermarkets soon follow Asda's example and look to make their own stores more accessible with similar technological solutions.

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