We’ve been talking to lots of people in our community about the challenges of visual impairments during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are the issues and questions that have come up most regularly.
Staff should introduce themselves to people with sight loss and offer to help if it is needed.
Ask the person what help they might want and advise of any changes which have been made to the premises or venue.
Provide advice or guidance with clear verbal indications, and check that the person has understood and is feeling confident to proceed.
Be patient and recognise a person with visual impairment may well need longer to carry out what they wish to do in an environment which has been changed.
If you have limitations on numbers of people who can be in your premises to facilitate social distancing you may need to allow flexibility for people with visual impairment to be accompanied by a sighted guide.
Recognise that sight loss can be an invisible disability and it may not be obvious when someone has a visual impairment.
A number of people with visual impairment have been unable to access supermarkets because of social distancing rules and because of high demand have also struggled to access supermarket delivery services which they have previously used.
Some supermarkets have now prioritised people with visual impairment for delivery slots, so if contacting a supermarket for a delivery let them know if you are blind or partially sighted.
The Scottish Government has launched a new helpline for people who are at high risk from coronavirus and do not have a support network at home, including disabled people. The phone number is 0800 111 4000.
Yes, the Scottish Government has confirmed it is permissible to help anyone at risk who needs support, including guiding for people with sight loss, while also emphasising the importance of limiting the time spent at less than two metres from each other. Guidance on face coverings and maintaining good hand hygiene must also be observed.
How should schools support pupils with visual impairment cope with the measures which are in place to restrict the spread of coronavirus?
It is important for schools to recognise the challenges pupils with visual impairment will face in observing any social distancing rules which apply within schools. It is vital that schools speak to Qualified Teacher with Visual Impairment for advice on support which needs to be arranged for blind and partially sighted people at this time.
Schools should help pupils with visual impairment become accustomed to any new arrangements to manage movement around the school estate or new classroom layouts which supports social distancing. Staff should consider how these will be accessible for pupils with visual impairment. In classrooms and areas where blind or partially sighted pupils use touch to guide themselves, schools should recognise the importance of keeping surfaces clean to reduce the risk of spread of infection.
Schools should communicate with pupils with visual impairment and their parents over any concerns or questions they may have. It is also important to raise awareness of the whole school community of the challenges for blind and partially sighted people in observing social distancing, the need to support them to cope with social distancing, and highlight that a range of people can be exempt from wearing face masks where they have a medical condition.
Advice and support should be available with visual impairment to help with negotiating any unfamiliar layouts or changes to facilitate physical distancing. A member of staff should be able to answer any questions you have about boarding a bus or a train, or moving around a station.
When personal assistance is being provided, people with visual impairment should make staff aware of any needs they have. You are the expert in your own personal needs. Staff should be aware you may have a ‘Thistle Card’ or similar which describes any help you need.
When people with visual impairment use public transport they should be given priority in certain circumstances, for example, having a fast track queue, priority parking or asking some passengers to wait for the next bus or train if space is limited.
New and replacement concessionary travel permits are not currently being issued; transport providers should allow passengers who do not have an NEC card but claim entitlement to travel free without one.
Workers with visual impairment may face a range of challenges from travelling to work, social distancing and identifying safety signs and floor markings and maintaining a 2m distance from others.
It is important employers:
Make all staff aware of the challenges facing employees with visual impairment as measures remain in place at workplaces to restrict risk of infection.
In-workplace opportunities should be given to employees with visual impairment, helping them get used to any new routes they may need to use within premises.
Hand sanitiser, anti-viral wipes and latex gloves should be available for staff to minimise infection from tactile markers, and cleaning regimes should be adhered to.
Recognise the challenges for people with visual impairment in using public transport though offering flexible shift patterns or alternative transport options to work
Offer home working where possible. For those working from home, employers should provide the right support and computer software if required. Access to Work funds are available to provide this support.