Members of the public should do more to help the visually impaired practise social distancing as the lockdown eases in the UK, a leading communal charity has said.
JBD’s chief executive Lisa Wimborne made the appeal on Monday just as England’s high streets and shopping centres drew crowds for the first time after a three-month shutdown.
“When you have a vision impairment when you’re going out to the supermarket, you can’t see all the signs and the dots on the floor,” Wimborne told Jewish News.
She said: “Having a visual impairment and going out and about at the moment, even just trying to get into a shop or walking down the street, and social distancing at the same time is incredibly difficult, especially when you can’t then have someone guiding you, touching, holding your arm or whatever it is to move you out of the way.
“We all need to be more aware of people with visual impairment, they may be walking with a white stick of a guide dog, if they are this is a clear sign to us all that they will need support with distancing. It is us not them that should be taking the lead to ensure we are supporting them with social distancing. There is an education piece needed here as well as more audio descriptors in shops on public transport and other public spaces.”
JBD tenant Michael Henriques, of Mill Hill, who is sheltering but has been to hospital during the lockdown, finds wearing a mask can obstruct his other senses.
“When you put the mask on, a lot of your senses are prevented. You can’t really smell. You can barely hear what’s going on, because these things get around his ears. And you certainly have no idea about social distancing,” he said.
Crowded and narrow pavements and one-way queues outside shops have been among the challenges faced by other members of the JBD community, he added.
The 59-year-old called on pedestrians to inform any visually impaired passersby of their presence and offer help at a distance.”If they just keep quiet, then we won’t know that they’re there. Vocalise their presence and indicate that there’s plenty of room, or not as the case may be, and telling us that there’s room to pass by,” he said.