Whilst a lot of people (us included) continue to work remotely, there will be others who need to start returning to work or travelling for other reasons. Whilst we are all still asked not to travel on public transport unless essential, for obvious reasons, a lot of people with vision impairments are unable to drive and are therefore more dependent on public transport than others. There’s a lot of info out there regarding safe travel (which can appear conflicting), so I (Vicky) thought I’d bring some of this information together, as well as us adding some of our own opinions.
Although the 2 metre rule is still in place, this can be reduced to 1 metre plus in situations where 2 metres isn’t possible. If you are sighted, please remember that someone with a vision impairment may not be able to gauge distance and so you may need to move out of their way.
On trains and buses, it is advised that people travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow. Again, this might be difficult for a person with a vision impairment to gauge, and so speaking to that person and letting them know where there is a suitable space might be helpful.
The government guidelines are that masks or face coverings are compulsory on public transport. You should also wear a face covering in other enclosed spaces where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. For example, at stations, interchanges, ports and airports and in taxis and private hire vehicles. A taxi driver or private hire vehicle operator may be entitled to refuse to accept you if you do not wear a face covering.
However, there are exceptions to mask wearing for the following reasons:
So our message is, if you see someone not wearing a mask they may have their reasons and these may not be obvious to you. Please be considerate with regard to this. If you are concerned for your health, then maintain your 2 metre distance where possible.
The rail companies and transport for London have been working on this and have advised their staff that ‘a layer of material may now be used as a barrier between the guide and the customer’. A recent podcast by Kaz, (who is blind), stated that staff have all been provided with plastic ‘sleeves’ that they can use for their ‘guiding arm’, although it seemed to be personal preference as to whether staff used them or not. If you need physical guiding or your route involves an escalator or lift on the London Underground then a taxi will be booked to take you to the next accessible point on your journey.
In our last insight (112. Social distancing and shopping, Part 2: Being aware as a sighted person), I discussed that, as a sighted person, I would be prepared to guide a person, if we both agreed it was necessary. However, it is worth bearing in mind that other ways of assisting may be more practical, such as verbally explaining directions to someone or walking with them and talking through where you are going rather than physically guiding. When doing this, remember to avoid pointing and using such terms as ‘it’s just over there’.
A useful summary of how you might help as a sighted person has been put together by RNIB in their #WorldUpsideDown campaign. There is a video on Twitter (@RNIB) and also an online quiz to help others learn more https://rnib.in/WorldUpsideDownQuiz. Their campaign message is ‘Be aware, be kind and offer help if you can’.
I think our message would be simpler – be considerate, and don’t be too quick to judge. These are difficult times for everyone but will have had more of an impact on some people than others. As we all try and return gradually to life as it was before, we need to be aware that this will be harder for some than for others.
Other articles used for this Insight:
GOV.UK – Safer travel guidance for passengers: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers
BBC news ‘The new way to travel if you're disabled and use access’: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-52927781
The ramblings of Kaz -
My first train journey since lockdown - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yNDRhNjBiOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==
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.