Coping during the pandemic

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Mobility skills

Due to the current restrictions on social distancing we’re not able to operate in the normal way. Our Orientation & Mobility Service has adopted new safe ways of working to protect our staff, clients and volunteers and continue to offer support and advice.

During this period, we’ve adjusted the way we can offer support by replacing our services with online and telephone support (call us on 0800 781 1444) as much as possible, until the situation improves.

We’ve also created a range of ‘hints and tips’ guidance to support your independence and wellbeing during this challenging time. Both outdoors and indoors.

This includes a podcast series, videos and written guidance, based on practical tips ranging from mobility and independent living skills, and how to make use of the technology available.

Advice on sighted guiding  

The current social distancing restrictions are difficult for everyone, but they pose an extra challenge for people with sight loss who are usually supported by a sighted guide.

The Government’s guidelines on social distancing advise us all to maintain a two-metre distance from anyone who doesn’t live in the same house as you. This means, during this period, you should only be guided by someone who lives in your household.

Here are our top tips on how you can make these restrictions work for you.

Man using cane walks outside alone

Orientation and mobility social distancing

Going outdoors for exercise

When going outside, always follow the latest government guidance.

You can continue to be guided by one other person who lives in your household when you go outdoors for exercise. While out, you should both still to adhere to the guidelines and try to maintain a two-metre distance from anyone else, including people you know from other households. 

Communication is essential when sighted guiding and it’s important that anyone who becomes your guide provides good instructions and descriptions of the environment. This includes any changes in direction, floor surface, or potential hazards, as well as general descriptions of the world around, such as other people nearby. If your family members need any tips on sighted guiding, please refer to our instructional videos.

On returning home you both should wash your hands straight away with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If you also used your cane you should wash it in warm soapy water or gentle disinfectant, including the tip. 

Going food shopping

You can continue to be supported by a guide from your household to complete your food shopping. Some supermarkets are restricting shoppers to only one adult per household, but an exception is made for a sighted guide to support you.

Please note: As the UK continues to ease the lockdown measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, face coverings are being required by law in a variety of settings be it on public transport, in shops and supermarkets and in taxis and private hire vehicles. See more guidance on face coverings for service users.

When you arrive at the supermarket you may be asked to queue outside the store as there are restrictions on the number of customers allowed inside. You will also be asked to queue with a two-metre distance between each customer, in line with the social distancing guidelines.

To help other shoppers understand your needs and to encourage social distancing, you may wish to consider holding your cane (symbol or long cane) in the opposite hand you are being guided by. We recommend holding the cane either slightly diagonally across your body or down by your side. Make sure holding the cane doesn’t affect the ability of your guide to support you or create a trip hazard. 

You may also want to consider wearing a high-visibility jacket, waistcoat or armband. These items can be purchased from the following stores:

  • Macular Society – visually impaired badge
  • Chesterford – armbands
  • iProSports – high-vis bibs

If you need to use a trolley in the store, your guide can hold and navigate the trolley whilst you maintain a gentle ‘C grip’ on their elbow or follow slightly behind with your hand placed on their shoulder. 

Alternatively, you may wish to adapt your normal guiding techniques and hold the shopping trolley between you and your guide. You can hold the handle of the trolley whilst your guide gently pulls the trolley and navigates you. 

Many of the larger supermarkets are regularly cleaning all the shopping trolley and basket handles, but you could also consider wearing disposable gloves. 

On returning home please remember to your wash your hands with soap for at least 20-seconds, as per the guidance.

For any other information on Covid-19, please call us on 0800 781 1444, between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Top tips for keeping your distance


Guidance on social distancing for those in Northern Ireland