So we’re in week 8 of lockdown and our Prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced on Sunday (10th May) that we can now take unlimited exercise each day, sunbathe in the park and meet 1 person from another household providing that we can maintain social distancing. Some industries are now allowed to re-open providing that it is safe for their employees but those that can continue to work from home should do so.
But what has it been like for people with a vision impairment during these times?
So lockdown itself and staying at home is actually quite normal for lots of blind and partially sighted people.
For me, Dave, I have a part time job that I do alongside running VIDA Training and the Disability Equipment Service with Vicky and this work gets me out of my house for part of the week, but on other days I work from home anyway. When I’m not working, I might walk in to town, pop to the local shop or meet up with friends for a beer but, on the whole, I would spend lots of time at home so lockdown hasn’t been too bad for me.
With regards to work, I have been lucky enough that I can continue to do my work from home with Vicky supporting me remotely, so although a change that’s taken some adjustments on both sides, we have been able to continue working.
However, the thing that’s had the biggest impact has been staying safe when going out and trying to maintain a social distance.
Even answering the door has become tricky. In the past I would have just opened the door and, if needed, explained to the person in front of me that I can’t see (that’s the phrase that I find works quickest in getting the message across), then taken the parcel, signed the PDA, etc. However, now, when the doorbell rings, I open the door to, if I’m lucky, a delivery driver stood at the bottom of the path shouting instructions on where the parcel has been left. If I’m unlucky, the driver is already driving off and I’m left feeling around until I find the parcel (although to be fair that did also happen sometimes before lockdown too!!). I’m guessing that this will be the same when we have drones dropping parcels off in the middle of the lawn! 😊 (smiley face)
Maintaining a 2 metre gap from other people is really tricky when you can’t see; you should try it. I find queuing difficult at the best of times but when everyone is supposed to stay 2 metres apart and no-one wants to touch you or you to touch them then it creates a massive problem. I’m fortunate that I’m married to Kelly who is sighted so she has been able to get out to the shops. However, for many people who live on their own, this option just isn’t available.
With supermarket online delivery slots getting booked weeks in advance and people with a vision impairment not classified as ‘vulnerable’ (so not on the supermarket’s priority customer list), food shopping became a real issue for people with vision impairments. Campaigning by the sight loss charities did help highlight this problem but getting through to the supermarkets on the phone to be recognised as a priority for online bookings was taking days. Some blind people were also refused support at supermarkets. Volunteer groups were available in some locations to help, and for others neighbours/friends or family stepped in, but this isn’t available for everyone and certainly isn’t the same as choosing your own shopping so takes away an element of independence.
And then there’s going out in general. Again, we’ve walked together as a family and therefore I’ve been guided around people to maintain social distancing – perfect. This has also meant I’ve been guided around objects too and therefore haven’t has to use my sense of touch that I often rely on heavily and which is also a big ‘no’ at the moment. However, if I had been living alone, this would have been another story and I quite possibly wouldn’t have ventured out at all. And again, it has also meant that I don’t currently go out on my own as I would have done before, again taking away another level of independence.
So, in conclusion, the actual lockdown and staying at home hasn’t been such a problem for me. It’s the social distancing measures that have had the biggest impact on my life as a person living with a vision impairment and I expect many other blind people will feel the same. Oh, and for me, not being able to get my hair cut!!!! ((although that one probably applies to many people, vision impaired or sighted 😊 (smiley face)).
We’re always interested to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Please share these by commenting…
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Our VIDA Insights...
Following our experiences from delivering our Vision Impairment Awareness training days over the past couple of years, we know that there’s loads more that we could talk about and examples we could have shared. Whilst these won’t be a substitute for our training, they will give you an insight (hence the name!) into our thoughts, observations and experiences from each of our perspectives - Dave’s living with sight loss and Vicky’s from being a sighted person and working alongside and supporting people who have sight loss.