New World CBD owner Greg Guy with Hearing Nelson president Connie Charlton trialing the new sign language checkout. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Supermarket moves with signs of the time

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A central city supermarket plans to make life easier for those who are hard of hearing by trialling dedicated sign language aisles at its checkouts.

Hearing Nelson, which offers advice and support to the hard of hearing, is driving the trial at New World on Vanguard St.

President Connie Charlton says masks and perspex screens used as barriers against Covid-19 cause significant problems for people with hearing problems.

She says many rely on lipreading, but anyone who struggled to hear people behind masks and screens might also benefit from the trial which would include sign language posters at the checkout.

Connie says the idea sprang from a conversation with friends.

“We were discussing Covid – as you do, and one in particular who’s hard-of-hearing said how difficult it was to hear with the perspex barrier in the supermarket.

“Another piped up and said she could hear well and still had difficulty.”

Connie says the problems grew with people encouraged to wear masks.

“I’ve been looking at ways get sign language integrated into society a bit more. Anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing – they feel valued that they are being communicated with.”

She says it is also a good way to mark Sign Language Week later this month. Sign language was made an official New Zealand language in 2006.

She says checkout staff at the supermarket were being trained in basic sign language, and posters displaying sign language would be placed in the aisle.

“People who choose to use that aisle can talk if they wish, but also use sign language to communicate.

“It will be just basic things like ‘hello’, and ‘have you got your clubcard’, ‘have you got a shopping bag’ – just little things like that, that make it easy to go through the checkout.”

Connie says the trial had been approved by the supermarket chain head office, and it had been embraced by the store’s owner operator Greg Guy.

“I think once people get over the initial shyness of using a different language – once they get into the swing of things, it will work well.”

She hoped the Hearing Nelson initiative would be taken up nationally. The trial will start at the New World supermarket in Nelson on 14 September.