Dec 7, 2016 at 3:31 PM | By Staff Report
TAVARES - Imagine trying to shop for groceries while blind. Imagine being blind and trying to shop for an outfit, not knowing where to find items or whether they match. Imagine trying to navigate rows of exercise equipment at a gym or trying to follow the action of a movie at a local theater.
These are real challenges for the visually impaired in Lake and Sumter counties, whose independence can be compromised by their inability to tackle simple, daily tasks that those with sight take for granted.
And these are the challenges that New Vision for Independence, a local agency that serves the visually impaired, sought to address with an effort to recognize blind-friendly businesses through the Axy Awards.
This week, New Vision honored businesses that had been nominated by their clients for being helpful and responsive to the needs of visually impaired people.
"We encourage people with visual impairments to reintegrate into their community, and it's difficult to do that if businesses are afraid of people with these visual impairments," said Chantel Buck, president and CEO of New Vision for Independence.
The winners in each category were:
GROCERY STORE: Publix. "Nominators of the grocery chain raved about the ease with which a visually impaired person could ask for help completing their grocery shopping," the nomination states. "An employee with accompany you aisle by aisle to help you gather your things." Runner-up: Wal-Mart
BANK: United Southern Bank. The nomination states that United Southern provides "excellent customer service to all, regardless of disability." Runner-up: Seacoast Bank
CLOTHING STORE: Bealls. The nomination points out that "employees ... helped visually impaired shoppers walk around the store, find what they needed and even advised as to whether or not an outfit matched." Runner-up: TJ Maxx.
FITNESS CENTER: Planet Fitness. The nomination lauds Planet Fitness for creating "an inviting and helpful atmosphere for visually impaired people seeking to be more active." Runner-up: Gold's Gym
TRANSPORTATION: Sumter County Public Transit. The nomination boasted that Sumter Transit's services were "accessible and affordable and their employees were very helpful." Runner-up: Lake County Public Transit
MOVIE THEATER: AMC at Via Port Florida mall. AMC offers "descriptive video, which "helps a visually impaired person follow along with a movie's plot during times of little dialogue. Runner-up: Barnstorm Theater at Brownwood.
UTILITY: Comcast Cable. Voted best because of its voice search feature on its cable remote control. Runner-up: SECO
BOOK SERVICES: Talking Book Library. The nomination states that Talking Book has "innovative services for visually impaired residents to access books." Runner-up: Lake County Public Libraries
BOWLING ALLEY: Break Point Bowling Alley. Nominated "because of the kindness their employees showed to individuals with low vision or blindness who seek accommodations while bowling." Runner-up: Spanish Springs Bowling.
RESTAURANT: IHOP. Nominated "because of the easy access to Braille/large print menus and the servers' willingness to read menu options upon request." Runner-up: Cracker Barrel
PHARMACY: Lake/Bay Pharmacy. This Eustis business packages prescriptions by the dose and offers delivery services for those with limited access to transportation. Runner-up: Walgreens
In addition, New Vision honored the Lake County Sheriff's Office as its Community Partner of the Year. The Sheriff's Office helped New Vision form in 2005 and has been an eager partner in all its endeavors over the years, including the annual Dining in the Dark fundraiser.
The agency's Volunteer of the Year was Lynn Crandall, who donated 345 hours to visually impaired clients of the agency.