As lockdown begins to ease, we are all asked to practice social distancing, which, when you have sight loss, could be seen as a struggle.
Seeing supermarket markings, or how far away the person is in front of you, is not as clear to a visually impaired person, as it would be for a fully sighted person.
So here at Galloway’s, we have compiled our top tips on how to abide by social distancing rules.
1. Letting people know you have sight loss and may need extra guidance would ensure people around you are more aware of your circumstances. Most people will be aware if you have a guide dog, but there are also other indicators: a symbol cane; a sunflower lanyard which highlights people with hidden disabilities; a hi-vis vest; or even a magnifier when in a shop.
2. A long cane is more obvious to the wider public and should make them more aware of the situation. You may even want to purchase a longer cane to reach further. Make sure your arc is wide enough and add an extra tap to check your shoreline. This creates more noise and it will help people hear you coming. You could also increase your arc width as long as you don’t compromise your safety. Keep to the inner shoreline, away from the kerb, and let others step out into the road. Make your path definite and clear.
3. If you think someone is too close, tell them you have a visual impairment and ask them whether they are at the correct distance. When they answer, you can also determine their distance from how far away their voice is.
4. If you are using public transport, ring and book assistance if possible. Ask someone to talk you through the new layout and rules. If possible, try to go out during quieter times to reduce the amount of people you may come into contact with.
For example, Lancashire County Council's Sensory Impairment Team is offering blind or partially sighted people individual training at Preston Bus Station, to get comfortable with the new layout.
Anyone wishing to discuss this can call on 0300 123 6720.
For more information on using public transport, visit https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/coronavirus-updates/public-transport
5. The government now requires people to wear face masks on public transport, such as buses and trains. The rule is less strict for taxis, but some taxi drivers may refuse you if you do not wear a face covering. It is best to check their rules before you travel.
6.You must also wear face masks when attending hospital, as a visitor or a patient. You may be exempt from wearing a face mask if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering. Children under 11 also do not need to wear a mask.
7. From Friday, July 24th, we must all wear face masks in shops. There is no ruling that you should wear them in a pub or restaurant, as you are eating. However, face masks can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are suffering from Coronavirus but not showing symptoms. But they are not a substitute for social distancing or washing hands.
8. Many places, such as shops, hospitals, opticians and GP surgeries have been adapted to ensure people can remain 2m apart. They will have social distancing markers, one way systems and a new layout, so perhaps ring ahead and enquire about these changes to see if you would require assistance. If possible try to go at quieter times.
9. As you may rely on touch, ie feeling for doors, lampposts and bus stops, wear long sleeved clothing or gloves to limit skin contact.
10. Get into the habit of washing your hands thoroughly before going out and when coming back home. Make sure you disinfect your long cane, as it has come into contact with the ground. If anyone approaches you to stroke your guide dog, politely remind them your dog is working and must not be touched due to social distancing rules.