How to help those with sight loss trying to social distance
As lockdown starts to ease and communities across the country begin to enjoy fewer restrictions around travel and socialising, it brings a new set of challenges for people with sight loss to overcome – with social distancing measures limiting independence and increasing isolation.
To help combat this, we have put together some tips on how to help people social distance with sight loss.
1. Keep your distance, but don’t disappear
People with sight loss may find it challenging to social distance, so if you see someone with a guide dog or a long cane then you can help them by making sure you keep 2m away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also offer your help.
As guide dog owner Louis Moorhouse, 18, says: “My guide dog Kizzy hasn’t been trained to social distance, that’s why we need help from the sighted public. If you see us coming towards you, please don’t be offended that we might not be observing the two metre rule or attempting to stop – we just don’t know that you are nearby so you have to do the social distancing for us if you can. If we don’t acknowledge that, please know that we are still grateful, we might just not know what action you have taken to help keep us safe – feel free to let us know you are there!”
2. Say hello and offer your help
Simply by letting someone with sight loss know you are nearby; you are giving them the opportunity to ask for any help if they need it. People often feel unsure about their ability to help someone with sight loss, but their request could be a simple as finding out where a shopping queue starts, or if there is a safer place to cross a road.
Anne Ruddock, 69 from North Yorkshire says: “It can be really challenging at the best of times when you can’t see what’s going on around you. At the moment, it’s vital that I get more verbal information from people around me, as a lot of the environment around us is built on visual cues, which I can’t rely on. By saying ‘hello’ and offering some extra help could make the world of difference.”
3. Describe the scene
We’ve all had to adapt to unusual sights during lockdown – people standing apart in long lines outside of supermarkets for example. But those with sight loss haven’t always witnessed this to the same extent, which can be isolating and confusing. By describing what you can see to someone with sight loss, you can help them to understand the environment and navigate accordingly.
Guide dog owner Jonathan Attenborough explains “I don’t always know there is a queue because my dog Sammy takes me to the door of the shop, not the end of the queue. Shops have introduced visual indicators and one-way systems and if you can’t see they’re a major challenge.”