Justine Drake

Content Director at John Brown Media South Africa and Fresh Living Editor

Two magazines

Fresh Living: Braille Issue allows the visually impaired the ability to consume the delicious content we serve up every month, says Fresh Living editor Justine Drake

Eating and sharing food is central to most people’s pleasures, and even those of us who don’t fancy actually making the food still find ourselves drawing inspiration from cookbooks, magazines and multiple digital channels.

But what do blind and visually impaired folk do? Well, I now have it on good authority that their sighted buddies read recipes out loud while they furiously type it all out into Braille. So, when partially sighted reader Jennine Britz approached the Fresh Living team in May 2019 with the suggestion of printing Pick n Pay’s Fresh Living magazine in Braille each month my initial reaction was ‘What a brilliant idea!’, shortly followed by ‘Where do we even begin?’

Our vision

And as Pick n Pay positions itself as a customer champion and promises to embrace diversity and foster inclusivity, the absence of a bespoke offering for these shoppers seemed a tad disingenuous. Added to that, with over 400,000 blind and partially sighted people living in SA, the law of averages meant there had to be a real need and the onus was on us to find it…

Naturally, we encountered some obstacles. Firstly, Fresh Living is free to Smart Shoppers, but obviously much of that investment is offset by advertising, and last time I looked, no agencies were creating ads in Braille. So cap in hand we proposed that PnP simply suck it up and make the investment, and they did.

The process

We consulted with various copy editors, printers and the like and came up with a plan: the production process begins after the main edition goes to press. With the help of partners at Blind SA, the pages are taken into an automated Braille-translation process, after which a blind proofreader checks them and makes the necessary adjustments to ensure the content and particularly the recipes are accessible and enjoyable. Embossing machines then print the Braille version of Fresh Living in less than five seconds per page and copies are distributed to selected PnP stores, where they can be requested at the Customer Care desk, and are also sent to selected Centres for the Blind nationally.

All the feels

The result: Fresh Living: Braille Issue was hailed as a first in the retail space, plus it dramatically increased positive customer sentiment and brand loyalty.

Social media sentiment around the topic was significantly improved compared to the average sentiment around the same period:

Positive 20% (vs 15% avg)

Neutral 80% (vs 71% avg)

Negative 0% (vs 14% avg)

The national PR pick-up across print, online and radio was worth R1 million, including radio and press interviews. We also got homepage coverage on goodthingsguy.com, which is an online portal dedicated to positive news in South Africa. But most importantly, the positive impact it made on a very grateful blind and visually impaired customer made all the effort worthwhile.

Screen Shot of press coverage
Screen Shot

The Braille edition of Fresh Living is now available from the South African Library for the Blind, and messages of thanks and appreciation have flooded in since the launch.

Pick n Pay has been one of just a handful of companies who understand my vision of improving public facilities for the blind  by including their blind consumers, through the Braille version of Fresh Living, which has brought overwhelming excitement and appreciation to me and hundreds of Braille readers  across the country.” – Jennine Britz

In our world, where the bulk of all innovation comes from the digital arena – imagine producing something as ludicrously out of date as a print product without pictures. Well, thanks to a reader with true 20/20 vision, we did… and, in the process, we changed lives.