Safe social distancing near-impossible for people with sight loss (RNIB research)

Dawn Bowden MS said “Thanks to RNIB Cymru as we start to ease restrictions in Wales. They have compiled some important evidence and we must all remember to be courteous to those around us”.

It is essential that people are aware that not all disabilities are visible and are considerate to other pedestrians and passengers who may have hidden health conditions and mobility requirements. They report:

 

Safe social distancing near-impossible for people with sight loss (RNIB research)

Our latest research into the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on blind and partially sighted people shows:

  • 66% of blind and partially sighted respondents feel less independent now compared to before lockdown.
  • 80% of all respondents reported that the way they shop for their essential shopping has changed since lockdown, with half as many blind and partially sighted people now shopping alone
  • 74% of respondents were either very or quite concerned about getting access to food while 21% of people reported that they had had to ration food.
  • A quarter (26%) of respondents said that they had struggled to get written information in a format that they could read and 17% said that they had struggled to access online information.

Click here for a full briefing on this research

Blind and partially sighted people have experienced being challenged in the streets for not keeping their distance, and many visual markers to enforce social distancing are inaccessible for people with sight loss:

 “It is very hard to know how to keep 2 metres away from people when you can’t judge distance… I can’t see the markings on the floor, so have been shouted at… I ended up in tears. It’s not my fault that I can’t see the floor markings.”

This is having a major effect on the independence of many blind and partially sighted people, in many cases leading to isolation and depression:

“I live alone and feel isolated and alone for the first time in my life. I am also very acutely aware of my sight impairment in ways I am not usually.”

“I am very concerned about social distancing when we do return to going out again. Visually Impaired people like myself who were independent before will be more disabled after this pandemic.”

Remaking streets, public awareness and a coronavirus courtesy code

Coronavirus response measures are beginning to be eased across the world. With this easing, we are seeing temporary changes being made to the layouts of streets and public spaces. The Welsh Government recently signalled intentions to begin introducing temporary transport measures to enable safe social distancing and to encourage a shift towards more sustainable transport.

Whilst we support the intention to encourage more active travel, street layouts can cause difficulties at the best of times for people with sight loss. We want to ensure that any temporary changes to our public spaces allow people with sight loss and other disabled people to continue to get around safely and independently.

It is vital that the needs of blind and partially sighted people are built into systems created to ease the lockdown to ensure that they are able to play an active part in society.

RNIB Cymru, with the support of a number of third sector organisations, have written to Welsh Government and local authorities outlining our concerns and calling for the introduction of a ‘coronavirus courtesy code’ to raise public awareness and promote safe social distancing for all pedestrians, road and public transport users.

It is essential that people are aware that not all disabilities are visible and are considerate to other pedestrians and passengers who may have hidden health conditions and mobility requirements.

 

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