A YORK retail park has launched a new initiative to improve the customer experience for visually and sensory impaired shoppers.

The team at Vangarde Shopping Park have received professional training in how to assist someone with sensory loss effectively and safely, which took place at The Wilberforce Trust, in Huntington.

During the course, the team learned how to make communication, mobility, daily activities and the environment more easily accessible for someone with a sensory impairment. Using simulation glasses, they also discovered what it was like for someone living with cataracts or tunnel vision.

Samantha Scholey, operations manager at Wilberforce Trust, said: “The course is a practical and engaging training session, aimed at helping individuals understand the needs and concerns of people living with a sensory impairment, and has been embraced by businesses and organisations across York and Yorkshire.

“Around 6,680 people in York are living with sight loss, which is expected to rise to 8,190 by 2030, making visual impairment awareness more important than ever before.

“We were delighted to help Vangarde Shopping Park increase their ability to support customers and colleagues living with a visual impairment. Shopping can be a daunting task when you’re visually impaired but knowing the staff are trained in how to help will make a real difference to the people shopping there.”

During the course, Vangarde’s staff members engaged in practical activities and were shown how to guide a visually impaired person throughout the park overcoming all the obstacles an individual would face.

Operations manager and sensory impairment trainee Carl Bailey said: “The training gave me a real insight into how difficult it can be operating with very little or no sight.

“I think this is an amazing initiative and it’s very gratifying to be able to offer our customers this important service.”

The Sensory Awareness Training is also available to carers, family and friends, or anyone who may have contact with a person with sight loss, for them to be able to offer effective support.