How to Assist a Blind Person During Social Distancing

I received this message from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (GDBA), the charity which trains guide dogs in the UK, and thought it would be of value to my readers as it offers useful tips on how to assist a visually impaired person during this time of social distancing:

“Did you know that only one fifth of the public ‘completely comfortable’ offering to help someone with sight loss while social distancing is in place?*

“Today Guide Dogs has launched a new campaign called ‘Be There’ to give the public ways of supporting people with sight loss during social distancing.

“Social distancing is the most challenging aspect for me in the whole Covid-19 situation… it would really help if people have an awareness of how they can play their part.” Jonathan, guide dog owner

Jon is not alone in this, we’ve heard similar stories many times over the past few months. That’s why we’ve come up with 3 simple tips for the wider public to help them support people with sight loss:

1. Keep your distance, but don’t disappear – People with sight loss may find it challenging to social distance, so if you see someone with a Guide Dog or a long cane then you can help them by making sure you keep 2m away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also offer your help.

2. Say hello and offer your help – Simply by letting someone with sight loss know you are nearby; you are giving them the opportunity to ask for any help if they need it. People often feel unsure about their ability to help someone with sight loss, but their request could be a simple as finding out where a shopping queue starts, or if there is a safer place to cross a road.

3. Describe the scene – We’ve all had to adapt to unusual sights during lockdown – people standing apart in long lines outside of supermarkets for example. But those with sight loss haven’t always witnessed this to the same extent, which can be isolating and confusing. By describing what you can see to someone with sight loss, you can help them to understand the environment and navigate accordingly”.

As a visually impaired person and a guide dog owner, I have, I think been lucky as I’ve continued to find the public helpful during the current COVID-19 situation. Just last evening I was walking home after having spent a couple of hours with a friend in Crystal Palace park, when I became aware that the pavement was blocked by workmen carrying out pavement works. Without me asking, one of the workmen offered me his arm and guided me passed the obstruction. Again, a few weeks back, a gentleman helped me navigate fallen branches in my local woodland by allowing me to take his arm.

(You can find out more about the work of Guide Dogs here, https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/).

25 thoughts on “How to Assist a Blind Person During Social Distancing

  1. Patty

    Hi.
    First, great post.
    I’m glad to see people are helping.
    My curious question…
    Why did your guide dog not guide you around the obstacles?
    Again, as before when we spoke of guide dog work it may be your dog is trained differently than mine, but when guide dogs here in the US come upon an obstacle their job is to indicate the safest way around said obstacle and our job as handler is to follow our dogs.
    Curious in the USA.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Thank you for commenting, Patty, and I’m glad you like my post. So far as I am aware, the pavement was blocked in it’s entirety and the only way of bypassing the obstacle was to walk on the road. Its a busy main road, therefore attempting this in the absence of sighted assistance would have put both Trigger and I in danger. The gentleman who guided me passed the obstacle took my guide dog and I into the road which, as a sighted person he could judge far better than I. Best, Kevin

      Reply
      1. Patty

        Hi.

        I’ve encountered such things before.

        I remember once coming across a large moving truck which was pulled across the entire sidewalk and grassy verge. The road running passed on our left was quite busy and to our right was the truck blocking the whole walk and drive.

        What to do?

        Campbell took me over to the very end of the truck where it sat with it’s tail poking out into the road.

        He stood poised on the curb and I could feel his muscles ripple.

        He watched the traffic. There came a slight break. He started to pull. Then another car came whizzing by. He stopped me again. We waited. Finally another break in the traffic came. He pulled like a train. Fast like lightening we ran into the road. Around the tail of the truck we went. Back onto the walk he took me as soon as we were passed.

        We both stopped to catch our breath.

        Campbell looked back over his shoulder and gave a snort of evident disgust.

        Not a great thing to have to do but I’ve done it a lot. It’s scary. Sometimes though there is no way.

        Another time I encountered some sort of machine. There was simply no way to cross. We had to go back and find an alternate route.

        Patty L. Fletcher

        Self-Published Author and Social Media Promotional Assistant

        Email: patty.volunteer1@gmail.com

        Website: http://www.campbellsworld.wordpress.com/ .

        Food For Thought

        We all are the Light, automatically. So we really don’t have to go too much further than that. We all have a Light within us – it is the Soul; it is that spark of God, of the Divine, that activates our consciousness.

        -John-Roger, DSS

        Source: New Day Herald website

    2. K Morris Poet Post author

      You provide a wonderfully vivid description as to how your guide dog assisted you to pass that truck, Patty. Yes, I also have had to take actions, as a blind person that I would not, in the ideal world have wished to take. Sometimes, if there is no sighted assistance available (and the dog cant help), then one has to employ one’s judgement. Anyway I’m glad you remained safe and well. Kevin

      Reply
      1. Patty

        Hi Kevin.

        Some of what we go through as blind persons is quite stressful.

        I guess I’m kind of weird, because when something like what I described is over I somehow feel a charge.

        It’s part relief, part fear of what might have been and part pride that we were able to work around it and live to tell the tale.

        LOL.

        That having been said, a lot of what we as blind persons encounter such as obstacles on sidewalks could be avoided if people would just think…

        Examples of what I mean are…

        * Cars parked across sidewalks that could be placed in a driveway, or alongside the curb instead. * Trashcans or other waste bins being placed in the middle of the sidewalk rather than being at the curb where they belong. * Piles of brush which are left for the city removal services being spread all over rather than being piled neatly along the verge to wait to be removed.

        Yes, there are times when blocking the way can’t be helped but so many times I run upon things that are in the way because of carelessness and thoughtlessness rather than necessity.

        People who don’t walk as a rule don’t think.

        I’ve talked to runners and they have the same feelings as do I.

        They don’t like having to get into a busy street to run just because someone was mindless and blocked the walk.

        Another thing that annoys me to no end are property owners who don’t clear their walks of ice and snow.

        They’re quick to raise a fuss if your dog accidentally drops a load you’re unaware of in the grassy verge saying that the place he or she did is their property but somehow they care not when the way is blocked with dangerous ice or snow.

        I am glad you took the time to write this post.

        We must raise more awareness.

        Patty L. Fletcher

        Self-Published Author and Social Media Promotional Assistant

        Email: patty.volunteer1@gmail.com

        Website: http://www.campbellsworld.wordpress.com/ .

        Food For Thought

        We all are the Light, automatically. So we really don’t have to go too much further than that. We all have a Light within us – it is the Soul; it is that spark of God, of the Divine, that activates our consciousness.

        -John-Roger, DSS

        Source: New Day Herald website

    3. K Morris Poet Post author

      I agree with everything you say, Patty. On guide dogs having accidents, I remember several years ago Trigger having the runs in the entrance to a private housing estate. Obviously there was nothing I could do about. This did not, however stop a very angry gentleman from verbally abusing me, taking footage on his mobile and threatening to report me to the local authority. I apologised and pointed out that under UK law guide dog owners/blind people are exempt from picking up after their dogs. (GDBA do advise blind people to pick up, whenever its safe/possible to do so. There are, however circumstances where this is just not possible, such as the incident in question, or if the dog has an accident on a busy road). Anyway I heard no more about the incident. So the guy either didn’t file a complaint or, if he did the council pointed out that blind people are exempt from picking up after their dogs, as I’d already told him. By the way, the last 2 times you commented your comments went into moderation, which is odd as you have commented previously and my blog is configured that once a person has commented once (and I’ve approved that comment), then all subsequent comments should go through without me having to manually approve them. Best, Kevin

      Reply
      1. Patty

        Hi Kevin.

        I’ve dealt with people like that right here in my neighborhood.

        As to the comments going into moderation, I’ve had the same issue with a couple people who comment regularly on my blog.

        And now I need to go look in my moderated folder because there are probably people stuck in there.

        LOL.

        Hateful neighbors and stupid WordPress.

        It’s enough to make one think about putting brandy in one’s coffee.

        LOL.

        Patty L. Fletcher

        Self-Published Author and Social Media Promotional Assistant

        Email: patty.volunteer1@gmail.com

        Website: http://www.campbellsworld.wordpress.com/ .

        Food For Thought

        We all are the Light, automatically. So we really don’t have to go too much further than that. We all have a Light within us – it is the Soul; it is that spark of God, of the Divine, that activates our consciousness.

        -John-Roger, DSS

        Source: New Day Herald website

  2. Pingback: *Press it* How to Assist a Blind Person During Social Distancing #137 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

  3. Carol anne

    Hi, kevin! Great tips here! I shall be reblogging! as a blind person, I also find the social distancing hard, but I’ve also been very lucky, people have been kind and helpful to me!

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Hi, Carol. I’m pleased that people have been kind and helpful to you. Just this evening a gentleman offered me his arm and assisted me passed an obstruction. Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
      1. Patty

        Not sure what we’d do without them.

        When I went to New York during my training at The Seeing Eye, I was readying to cross a very busy street with my dog Campbell leading the way, and my instructor trailing behind, when a policeman offered me his arm to assist me across.

        Even though my dog was quite capable of getting me across, I thought that to find such a polite kind man in New York was such a grand thing, I wouldn’t soil it or his offer of kindness by turning him down, and so I accepted his arm, heeled my dog politely at my left side and we crossed onto the other side of the street.

        I thanked him, waited for my instructor to catch up and we headed off along our way.

        Walking in the crowds of New York with my guide was such a wonderful experience, and enhanced mine and my dog’s ability so that I wrote an entire chapter about it in the book I wrote which told the stories of those first experiences.

        Patty L. Fletcher

        Self-Published Author and Social Media Promotional Assistant

        Email: patty.volunteer1@gmail.com

        Website: http://www.campbellsworld.wordpress.com/ .

        Food For Thought

        We all are the Light, automatically. So we really don’t have to go too much further than that. We all have a Light within us – it is the Soul; it is that spark of God, of the Divine, that activates our consciousness.

        -John-Roger, DSS

        Source: New Day Herald website

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