Wegmans 1st U.S. Supermarket Chain to Offer Service for Blind/Low-Vision Shoppers

Wegmans 1st U.S. Supermarket Chain to Offer Service for Blind/Low-Vision Shoppers Aira Mobile App
The Aira mobile app enables blind and low-vision Wegmans customers to find their way around the grocer's stores

Wegmans Food Markets Inc. has become the first supermarket chain in the United States to offer free access to Aira, a San Diego-based startup that uses wearable technology, artificial intelligence, and live, human assistance to provide real-time visual description for people who are blind or have low vision. With a smartphone or a pair of smart glasses, an Aira “Explorer” can receive on-demand assistance from a remote trained professional.

A blind or low-vision shopper is now able to download the Aira app, register as a guest and use the service at no charge in any Wegmans location. The app enables a user to connect to a remote sighted agent who can help the shopper navigate the store, find specific items and identify the shortest checkout line via live camera stream, GPS, maps, and information sourced from the web.

“I’m excited to have Wegmans as our first partner in the Aira Supermarket Network,” said Aira founder and CEO Suman Kanuganti. “Their commitment to ensuring all customers have the same great Wegmans shopping experience is inspiring, and I’m proud to call them a partner.”

“At Wegmans, we are committed to providing incredible customer service to all our shoppers,” noted Linda Lovejoy, community relations manager for the Rochester, N.Y.-based grocer. “Our partnership with Aira helps us deliver on this commitment, giving our blind and low-vision customers access to this innovative service and the ability to navigate our stores easily and efficiently.”

Although Wegmans is its inaugural supermarket partner, the Aira Access Network already encompasses hundreds of campuses, workplaces and venues, in addition to 20 major U.S. airports in cities such as Boston, Houston and Seattle.

Another grocer that recently began improving access among blind and low-vision shoppers is Chicago-based ecommerce grocer Peapod, a division of Ahold Delhaize USA, whose mobile app and website now comply with regulations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), adopted into law in 1990 to ensure equal opportunities for all people with disabilities, in an effort to better serve customers with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed on May 11 that the retailer has fulfilled its commitment to making its consumer interfaces accessible to all consumers. For assistance with the process, Peapod enlisted My Blind Spot, a company that helps organizations integrate inclusive digital design into their culture, processes and technical infrastructures.

Wegmans operates 97 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The company is No. 14 on Progressive Grocer’s 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.