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Coronavirus Pandemic

People with vision disabilities in UK face social distancing challenges

Detail of arms/hands of a blind/visually impaired man holding a white can with a guide

As COVID-19 lockdown eases in UK, people who are blind or have low vision face a growing list of social distancing challenges.

Research from the UK Charity, RNIB shows how social distancing is near-impossible for many people with vision disabilities, while inaccessible signage and fears about how the public will react to them are causing additional stress and worry.

Guide Dogs research found only 22% of the general public would feel ‘completely comfortable’ offering to help someone with vision disabilities while social distancing measures were in place.

In response, Greater Manchester and Merseyside Sight Loss Councils have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issues and provide guidance to local businesses.

“Shops have one-way systems that are difficult to navigate due to floor markings that people with vision disabilities often cannot see.” said Iain Mitchell, Engagement Manager for Greater Manchester and Merseyside Sight Loss Councils.

“Guide dogs do not understand social distancing measures and blind and partially sighted people often will simply not see a queue. We’ve had reports of people angrily shouting at visually impaired people due to this misunderstanding, particularly in supermarkets, which has added to the stressful situation.”

This is not a small problem, as there are more than two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK. In Greater Manchester alone, this totals 47,200 people, reports Rochdaleonline.

Sight Loss Council members have created a suite of best practice guides for local transport providers, healthcare settings, retail outlets and other businesses to highlight what measures they could put in place to help blind and partially sighted people social distance.

For more information, visit SLC’s website.

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