We understand that some people may not find it easy to tell others they have a visual impairment, however, by letting others know and contacting places you plan to visit such as; doctors, chemists and supermarkets, you can ask for support when and where you need it. If you require orientation information you can contact the venue prior to visiting and so become familiar with new layouts or other changes before your visit. Alternatively, phone ahead and arrange for assistance and support on the day.
It may be a good idea to choose a quieter time to visit supermarkets so it’s easier to social distance or why not consider using the dedicated times set aside at supermarkets.
Artificial intelligence apps such as Seeing AI or crowdsourced assistance like BeMyEyes are available to download. See our technology tips for further information.
If you’ve got a cane (symbol or long cane), please consider using it and always keep it in view, rather than putting it away.
Take your cane even if you are with someone; hold it to the side and make it obvious you are together and being guided. You could fold your long cane in half, so you don’t get tangled, or catch anyone with it.
If you’re using your long cane, make it obvious that you are using it.
Keep your starting sweep/scan obvious, make sure your arc is wide enough. Sometimes we keep it tight as we learn to use a cane more efficiently.
Using touch technique, tap it on the floor and keep it noisy. Even if you do not normally tap your cane.
You could increase your arc width if you don’t compromise your safety, for example in a shop.
If you would like a refresh on the use of any cane or mobility aid, please contact Guide Dogs.
Keep to the inner shoreline, away from the kerb, and let others step out into the road.
Make your path definite and confident, be mindful that the environment can change with social distancing arrangements including the direction of travel.
If you think someone is too close, tell them you have a visual impairment and ask them whether they are at the correct distance. It will also help you to test the distance when you hear them answer. If they are not, it may prompt them to move away.
There are ways to make yourself visible, such as a high visibility vest or sash, especially if you are out and about with or without your guide dog. Some shops and venues use the Sunflower Lanyard or partially sighted badge to help identify hidden disabilities, you can read more about it on the RNIB’s website.
If you are using public transport, ring and book assistance if possible. Ask what you can expect on the bus/train, such as changes to layouts or any other guidance which may be useful.
Whilst boarding the bus, politely ask the driver to remain stationary so you can locate a suitable seat and when disembarking.
Follow the current government guidance and wear face masks on any public transport.
Amazon books have made a selection of Kindle books available for free download, including titles for all ages and genres.
Free assistive technology
Assistive technology software company Vispero have also made JAWS, ZoomText and Fusion available for free for the next 90 days to help students and people working at home.
If you already have a hobby, for example knitting or arts and crafts, make sure you have enough materials to be able to continue through self-isolation.
Keeping active during this period is beneficial not only for your physical health, but also your mental health. British Blind Sport have published accessible workouts to help you stay active and healthy whilst at home.
Radio and television
Local and national radio is a good source of entertainment as well as information, with many stations planning special output during the pandemic. You could also consider purchasing a subscription to a streaming service such as Netflix, where many programmes have audio description.
Some members of the public are offering to help vulnerable neighbours by placing a note through the letter box. Do not be afraid to accept offers of help from recognised organisations, volunteers and local community groups but continue to be alert and apply due diligence.
For example, if you need to pay for shopping that has been dropped off by someone else, you might like to pay using BACS or PayPal instead of handling cash or allowing your neighbour to use your credit or debit card to minimise the risk of fraud. If you must use cash, remember to wash your hands before and after handling to prevent the spread of the virus.
Please also be aware of keeping your personal data safe and only share what you need to, you should avoid sharing financial details, date of birth and any other personal details not relevant to the activity.
Following a successful campaign led by Guide Dogs in partnership with other sight loss charities, the Government have agreed with supermarkets to make priority access to home delivery slots available to people with sight loss. These slots will be available to those who are unable to access food and have no local support network to help them shop. The slots will be available through referral via RNIB’s Helpline (0203 123 9999, firstname.lastname@example.org)
For the time being, you should avoid using public transport in line with government advice. Alternatively, ask friends or family members that you live with if they can give you a lift, or walk if you are able. If this is not possible, please contact your local community volunteer support group to ask for help with shopping or errands.
Outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Coronavirus can be unsettling. Social distancing and isolation dramatically impacts our lives and routines, making it easier to feel lonely and isolated. It’s therefore important you take steps to find support and have a plan in place in case you need to self-isolate.
When grocery shopping, there's no need to buy more essential items than you need in preparation for self-isolation. You can set up an account with an online or telephone grocery delivery service to help you during this time.
It's also important to manage your well-being and mental health during this period of uncertainty. The NHS has developed a fact sheet of 10 ways you can improve your mental health and well-being during the Coronavirus outbreak.
During times of uncertainty and stress, try and keep in touch with your friends and family by telephone, email or social media.
Medicine is still considered an essential, and therefore pharmacies are remaining open for people to pick up medication and health products for themselves, or for people they are caring for at this time.
If you have developed symptoms including a new continuous cough or a high temperature, you're advised not to leave the house for any reason.
If you must stay at home and you take prescribed medication, you should arrange with your pharmacy to have it delivered. Make sure they are aware you have a vision impairment and of any specific requirements you may have. If they are unable to deliver, ask friends or family members that you live with if they can help collect your medication on your behalf.