What is the Assistance Service?
Also during our shopping trip, some staff members mentioned they do other tasks like give people directions to shops they'd like to go to, or provide a wheelchair. Apparently, anyone can call and use the service. If you'd like to know more about other services available at the shopping centre, visit the services page.
I'll admit I don't go to the Stratford Westfield a lot. The last time I went, I didn't need to walk up stairs and on a bridge to get inside. So I needed to ask people for directions because I couldn't find any staff members at the platform to ask for help. Plus, I wasn't sure which button to press on the white "help" box. For future reference, I now know it's the information one. Once I got there, I had no idea where the desk was and called the number. I explained where I was, what I looked like and where I needed to go. Someone came and guided me to the Starbucks where my friends were and then left. We decided which shops to start with and I called the assistant service to take us there.
The Sighted Guiding Experience:
Sighted Guide is a technique people with sight loss use to navigate unfamiliar environments. There are two methods to this, but both ways involve a sighted person being the lead and guiding the blind or Visually impaired person. One way is you as the person guiding is one step in front of the person you're guiding and they hold onto your elbow on their preferred side. As you walk, they'll be able to feel which way your moving. The other method is when the person who needs guiding holds onto your shoulder and feels which way your body is moving, whilst you walk one step ahead of them. Always ask people which side they prefer and let them know about any upcoming steps, gaps, unexpected stops or obstacles they'll need to avoid as they walk.
By the way it's possible for one person to guide to people, either both VIPs holds onto your right, or left elbow, or they hold each others elbow and form a line with you guiding them as the lead. I've heard the second option is called the VIP tango. The reason why I've brought this up is because, on our shopping trip there was one lady who was called to guide us at Starbucks and said she's the only one here and called her colleague over to guide both my friends, whilst I followed behind them. My friend who had used the service before, explained previously some staff have guided two people at once, so it probably depends on the person. When I went, most staff members didn't suggest doing this option. After that, we developed a system where one friend was guided by the services staff and I followed from behind, whilst guiding my other friend. Every time I called to get assistance I'd say "hi we're the three VIPs who need guiding, we're outside x shop, near y and need someone to take us to z shop". The services staff were nice people, they explained where we were going, chatted and waited with us until customer service came and even gave one of my friends the key they used to open the disabled toilet after taking us there. Turns out they can give it to you for free, or you can buy yourself one on Amazon!