The number of visually impaired and blind people is rising worldwide due to ageing of the global population, but research regarding the impact of visual impairment on the ability of a person to choose food and to prepare meals is scarce. The aim of this study was threefold: to investigate factors determining the choices of food products in people with various levels of impaired vision; to identify obstacles they face while purchasing food, preparing meals and eating out; and to determine what would help them in the areas of food shopping and meal preparation. The data was collected from 250 blind and visually impaired subjects, recruited with the support of the National Association of the Blind. The study revealed that majority of the visually impaired make food purchases at a supermarket or local grocery and they tend to favour shopping for food via the Internet. Direct sale channels like farmers markets were rarely used by the visually impaired. The most frequently mentioned factors that facilitated their food shopping decisions were the assistance of salespersons, product labelling in Braille, scanners that enable the reading of labels and a permanent place for products on the shop shelves. Meal preparation, particularly peeling, slicing and frying, posed many challenges to the visually impaired. More than half of the respondents ate meals outside the home, mainly with family or friends. The helpfulness of the staff and a menu in Braille were crucial for them to have a positive dining out experience. The results of the study provide valuable insights into the food choices and eating experiences of visually impaired people, and also suggest some practical implications to improve their independence and quality of life.
Keywords: Food choice; Impaired vision; Meal preparation; Shopping behaviour; Solutions.
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