When Joshua Goldenberg couldn't find the batteries he wanted at the grocery store, he had a simple answer.
The clever, visually-impaired youngster looked up at his mom and asked why the store couldn't just add Braille to the product shelves.
"I went online and started [Google searching] how blind people grocery shop," said Christie Goldenberg, Joshua's mother. "Of all the things I had thought of having a child that never dawned on me once. Here I am ready to send him off to college and everything else, but I never thought of the simple things."
Joshua and his family made a trip to the Newtonville Whole Foods on Friday to help launch the Braille Independence Initiative at the store. The Newtonville market is the first store on the East Coast to offer Braille labels on the product shelves.
"This is the first step of a strategic plan," National Braille Press President Brian MacDonald told Patch last week. "This is a great start and a great opportunity."
The National Braille Press, along with the Carroll Center for the Blind and Perkins School for the Blind, teamed up with Whole Foods and the Goldenbergs to launch the initiative, something the Goldenbergs started back home on the West Coast.
Christie Goldenberg told Newton Patch Friday that after her son asked about Braille labels in the store, she began making phone calls, writing letters and arranging meetings with her local Whole Foods.
"When I saw there were stories of [visually-impaired] people going into stores and waiting 20 minutes [for an assistant], I thought, Josh is so fiercely independent, he'll never go for that," Christie said. "So, I thought, there has to be a better way. And [Josh] said, 'Mommy, just make them put Braille on the labels.'"
And although she thought her son's idea would be brushed aside, the reaction was quite the opposite. Whole Foods embraced the concept and soon after, Joshua was at home making labels for the Thousand Oaks, CA store.
Now, Christie says Josh likes to run the show when the family shops for groceries. He also has ideas for Braille on coupons and labels at his local library.
"People say to me, 'oh it's so great you thought of that,' but you know, I really can't take any credit," Christie said. "We're simply a vehicle for this kid who drives us."
Soon after the launch in Thousand Oaks, Josh's initiative reached more than just his local grocery store. Here in Boston, the National Braille Press (NBP) found out about his project and decided to fly Josh and his family out to the East Coast to receive NBP's Hands On! Award at the NBP annual gala.
MacDonald explained that the annual award looks to recognize someone who is making a positive impact in the world of Braille literacy.
But the trip was not about just an award. The Goldenberg family wanted to bring Josh's Braille Independence Initiative to the shelves of a Massachusetts store, and the Newtonville Whole Foods was a perfect location.
"Beacuse of our proximity to Perkins and Carroll, we were the logical choice," said Terri Petrunyak, a marketing and community relations representative for the Newtonville Whole Foods.
Aisle by aisle and department by department, the Newtonville store will work through its products and add Braille labels to assist the large visually-impaired community in the area. The store started with the produce department and will move on to frozen food and the bakery next, Petrunyak said.
"This is really a demo project where we’re doing a section at a time, evaluating what works and then we're going to determine how to better improve the next section," Petrunyak said.
Braille labels, MacDonald says, are just the beginning of independence for visually-impaired customers. In a phone conversation with Patch last week, MacDonald explained that technologies incorporated with Android phones, such as bar code scanners and text scanners, will soon be able to help make shopping easier for blind customers.
"We think that this is a great start," MacDonald told Newton Patch. "It can let the general public realize, although it's a disability, through providing these kinds of resources everyone can have the same opportunities."
During Friday's event, Josh helped label a few of the items in the store including some papaya, fruit bowls and watermelon. After he finished, various members and students from Carroll and Perkins walked through the fruits and vegetables and were able to identify the produce on their own.
Being able to help other visually-impaired people, Josh's mother said, is what truly made the cross-country trip worthwhile.
"When we told him that the Braille in the store was going to be helping a lot of people out here, he said 'I'm so happy Mommy, I'm so happy to help them," she said.