Following on from yesterday’s post (Social distancing and shopping, part 1: What does this mean for someone with a vision impairment?), we thought it might be helpful to write from a sighted person’s perspective and include ways that you might still be able to assist someone with a vision impairment.
Vicky: So how does all of this affect those of us with sight? Since lockdown started, my life has altered a fair bit. I am now completely working from home which has its challenges but I have also become involved with several community initiatives supporting people locally. One of these roles has included food shopping regularly for people in my local area who are elderly, shielding or just need support. So, whereas before I would do a bulk food shop online once a month (topped up with regular trips to our amazing local greengrocer often on my way to work), I now find myself shopping twice a week, once in our local Tesco superstore and then once in our local village. Since lockdown, everywhere has altered to some respect. I have to say I’m really impressed with our local Tesco’s – they have marked 2 metre queuing points outside, have hand sanitiser as you enter and a clearly marked one way system on the floor. Even my local greengrocer has risen to the challenge, with them only allowing 2 people in the shop at once (more queuing outside, thank goodness for the amazing weather we’ve had) and hand sanitiser on the wall as you enter.
All of these new ways of doing things are a necessity but it takes some getting used to (it still seems strange having to constantly give people a wide berth when out walking) and has raised people’s anxiety levels too. And that’s when you can see.
As Dave quite rightly states, lots of shops have signs explaining their specific rules but obviously all of these are visual. And finding the hand sanitiser without sight, even if you knew it was there, would be a challenge. Often people with VI need to pick things up to take a closer look – another ‘no, no’ in this new world of ours!! When I took the photo of the hand sanitiser in the greengrocers and explained what I was writing about, they said they would obviously help someone if they needed it and more local shops have also offered delivery services. There are also lots of local initiatives using volunteers similar to the one I have joined (details of these should be available via your local council), but as Dave said in a previous blog, none of this is the same as shopping yourself.
So as a sighted person what can we do?
If you are out and about (in shops or elsewhere) and notice a person with an obvious vision impairment (someone using a white cane or guide dog for example), please be the one to observe social distancing. If you are near the person, a cheery hello, would be good and, if necessary, you can let them know verbally that you’re moving out of their way, just as you might visually indicate this to a sighted person.
If you do think someone needs support, then the best way to do this is not much different to before. First of all, take time to observe the person rather than rushing in. If out, often the vision impaired person will know where they are going and, even though it may seem that they are walking in to buildings, this might be their strategy for knowing where they are, using building lines as navigational landmarks. If this is the case, then as a sighted person, be the one to move out of the way and maintain social distancing. If the person does genuinely appear to be lost or disorientated, then by all means, double check. This is harder to do whilst maintaining social distance as we would usually recommend a ‘hello’ and maybe a gentle touch to the shoulder, to enable the person to realise you are talking to them, so for now a hello will have to do, but try and make it obvious you are addressing them. If the person does need support, it may be a conversation about exactly where they are will be all that is required, or you may need to verbally re-direct them. If physical guiding is the only way, then you will both need to discuss this and ascertain what you are both comfortable with. If in a shop, again, you may be able to verbally assist them to ensure they can get what they need.
However, as before, the main point is to ask the person if they need any help rather than grabbing them and moving them where you think they need to go, or grabbing items for them that you think they want. In this case, maybe social distancing does have its advantages 😊
We’re always interested to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Please share these by commenting…
Interested to learn more about VIDA Training? Read about our Training and Consultancy packages, specialising in Vision Impairment and Disability Awareness, Communication and Team Building or contact us for further information.
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.