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Price tag identification

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According to the American Foundation for the Blind, there are approximately 10 million blind and visually impaired people in the United States. This number is also growing at an alarming rate. A simple task such as grocery shopping can be a huge ordeal for individuals who are visually impaired and often require the assistance of others.

The two major problems that the visually impaired have when they grocery shop is way finding and price tag identification. The goal of this project was to come up with a concept solution for the visually impaired to identify grocery item prices.



Vision impaired individuals from the Center for the Visually Impaired were recruited and interviewed one-on-one. The researchers decided to use structured one-on-one interviews due to the fact that it allows the interviewees to describe tasks and thoughts that are not easily observable. In addition, it allows the researcher to probe deeper into specific issues and areas of interest. The goal of the project is to discover ways to enable a visually impaired individual to easily identify a specific grocery item’s price. Hence, the purpose of the interview was to find out what are the causes of a vision impaired person not being able to find the price of a grocery item, and their thoughts and opinions on solutions to this problem.


  • Visually impaired individuals do sometimes go grocery shop
  • Price identification is a big problem
    • Too small
    • Missing
    • Misplaced
    • Can’t see
  • The solutions suggested by the participants were:
    • Bigger price tags
    • Automatic isle announcements
    • Shopping cart proximity alarm
  • Favorite suggested solution – personal price scanner with speaker option and not attached to the buggy
  • From the most favorite solution to the least were:
    • Personal price scanner
    • Audio price readers
    • Braille price tags
    • Bigger price tags
  • Most visually impaired individuals do not read Braille


The visually impaired individuals do sometimes go grocery shop. The frequency of the activity is inversely proportional to the degree of an individual’s impairment. The more severe an individual’s impairment is, the less they are able to grocery shop. However, the level of their desire to be able to grocery shop is the same regardless of their impairment.

Price identification of a grocery item is a major problem. The causes of this problem include the price tags being too small, missing, or misplaced. In addition, for individuals who are blind, they simply can not see the price tags. For individuals who have severe visual impairments but are not blind, the first instinct for a solution is “bigger price tags”. However, for the individual who was legally blind, the first instinct was to have assistive audio devices, such as “automatic isle announcements”. More importantly though, when shown the suggested solutions, all participants chose the assistive audio options over the visual enhancement options, even the participants who first thought of “bigger price tags” as a solution.

The favorite suggested solution was the personal price tag scanner with speaker options. In addition, they chose to not have the scanner attached to the shopping cart. The participants were concerned that the non-visually impaired grocery shoppers would not take proper care of these assistive devices. One participant suggested having the scanners stored at the customer service desk and rented out to decrease the chance of these devices to be stolen or broken. Overall, the participants had a sense of “protection” over the suggested assistive devices.


During the study, it was discovered that most visually impaired individuals do not read Braille. Hence, the option of having Braille as an assistive device is not as helpful as the researchers originally predicted.

The visually impaired participants emphasized the researchers’ conjecture that the visually impaired have similar needs and desires as the non-impaired people. They want to be able to grocery shop just like any other person would. This was especially expressed when one participant said “the visually impaired need things to do, too!” There was extreme enthusiasm in the research topic displayed across all participants. Typical responses were “It is great that people are finally thinking of us”, “I hope this thing (personal price scanner) will be in the supermarkets soon”, “When will this device be out?”

Besides the problem of not being able to know what the price of an item is, another major problem that prevents the visually impaired individuals going grocery shopping is that they frequently bump into display objects randomly located throughout the store. Two out of the three participants suggested incorporating a bumper proximity alarm to the shopping carts, something that would help them identify obstacles in their way.

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Author: Doria Kung
Affiliation: Georgia Institute of Technology, College of Architecture
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