As a registered blind person, I rely on the assistance of others (often strangers) in unfamiliar situations. My guide dog Trigger does an excellent job of helping to navigate London’s busy streets safely. He can not, however help me to find the platform in a station I rarely (if ever) use. Consequently I rely on sighted assistance in such situations.
The best way to guide a visually impaired person is to allow them to take your arm, and I have been assisted in this manner more times than I’ve enjoyed hot dinners. However, with the Social Distancing introduced as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, this kind of assistance is, apparently becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Take, for example this email I received in response to my query sent to Transport for London:
“This question has actually been raised and answered already in our FAQs for station staff. Our intention is to carry on assisting Visually Impaired People in every situation. We will continue to provide assistance when asked, escort VIPs to platforms and onto trains, and also radio ahead for assistance at destinations whenever requested.
The two metre distancing rule will indeed mean we have to avoid direct contact and will make it harder to escort customers within stations, so extra time should be allowed for this. Nevertheless we will continue to do it as best we can.”
Just how (applying the 2 metre rule) will a visually impaired person be prevented from falling over obstacles, tripping on escalators etc?
Whilst I do, of course recognise the need for TFL employees to remain free (so far as is humanly possible) of Corona, I can’t help but wonder whether the use of a mask by employees, coupled with the changing of overalls after having conducted the visually impaired person would not be a more practical and sensible solution. Indeed if the visually impaired individual takes a bare arm, then the application of soap or hand sanatiser after the guidance has taken place would, surely be sufficient to prevent the possibility of COVID infection?
If any scientists happen to read this post, I would be interested to know your thoughts. In particular what are the possibilities of COVID being passed from a customer to a member of station staff (or, indeed the other way around) in what is, almost always a transaction of a few minutes?
Whilst walking through the woods yesterday, a gentleman offered his arm and helped me to pass some fallen branches which were blocking the woodland track. This response heartened me and contrasts quite starkly with the beurocratic position adopted by TFL and (doubtless) other service providers.
Of course the gentleman and I where in the good fresh air which does, I understand greatly reduce the possibility of passing the virus, particularly if one is in contact with another person only briefly. However this gentleman showed common decency and I’m grateful to him for his act of kindness.
There have been reports of neighbours and others reporting people for breaking social distancing rules. Perhaps the most famous example of this (although I have no idea who tipped off the press, or whether it was down to investigative journalism or muckraking depending on one’s perspective), was the revelation that Neil Ferguson (the scientist who’s work persuaded the government to introduce the lockdown here in the UK) had, himself been breaking social distancing rules.
The government had advised those in a relationship to either move in together (and not change between their respective homes), or to stop seeing one another during the Corona pandemic. However Professor Ferguson (a proponent of lockdown and social distancing) was found to have been seeing his married lover, (see https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8289921/Scientist-advice-led-lockdown-QUITS-breaking-restrictions-meet-married-lover.html).
There was, I believe a public interest in publishing the fact that a leading proponent of lockdown was breaking the rules which he himself was advocating. However would I, personally report a neighbour if I became aware that they where seeing people in their home who did not form part of their household?
The answer to the above question is no. Whilst I am, of course concerned about Corona, I don’t wish to live in a society where (as in the former East Germany/the German Democratic Republic) or Nazi Germany, people inform on their neighbours. To me someone beating their partner (or a child) is a very good reason for calling the police, but that same man (or woman) seeing friends, a partner who doesn’t live with them, or a casual lover is not. To me what goes on behind the closed doors of a person’s home is no concern of mine (apart from the exceptions outlined above).