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/).