As lockdown eases the RNIB have launched a new campaign to remind us all to maintain space, to be patient, and to be helpful. This campaign ‘coming out of lockdown together’ is in response to the barriers blind and partially sighted people have and continue to face due to the coronavirus pandemic.
We spoke to Marilyn who is a member of our Devon Disability Network, to hear her views on the additional barriers she faces as a blind person due to the pandemic. We also asked her what would make a real difference.
1.) What’s been the hardest thing to deal with during the pandemic?
“The hardest thing has been the social distancing. Guide dogs don’t understand the 2-meter distancing rule. I often get shouted at by members of the public for not keeping my distance or not accessing an area correctly. There are now physical barriers, ropes, cones, to make sure we all queue correctly or enter a building through one door and out another. This is very disorientating for me, as my guide dog does not see these things, and I often end up walking into the barriers or annoy or upset members of the public for getting to close or not doing it correctly”.
2.) How does this make you feel?
“It has really affected my confidence, I have also felt really frustrated and upset at times. I’m nervous about going out anyway, but for my mental wellbeing, like everyone else, it’s important I get outside independently to go and do my daily exercise or shopping. But my self-confidence has been really knocked as I’m nervous about catching the coronavirus and facing animosity from the public because I’m not keeping my distance or sanitising. People have got to use their common sense and be more patient with me, I can’t see these things”.
3.) How do you feel with lockdown easing and restrictions lifting?
“I feel a lot better now that I have had my vaccination. But it’s not been easy. I still feel apprehensive when I go out, I think this is because people seem to lack patience at the moment and can be unkind and lack common sense for my situation. People have got to remember that guide dogs are not robots, people just need to be considerate and tell me when I’m going wrong”.
4.) What would make a real difference to you?
“If people could be more understanding, disabled people need a bit more respect, we need to be looked at as individuals. People need to have common sense, you can see I have a guide dog, so appreciate I might get things wrong when I’m out and accessing a building. I can’t read the signs, I can’t see 2 meters and neither can my dog. If people could be a bit more considerate and polite, that would make a real difference”.
How to interact with people with sight loss
Marilyn’s insight into the barriers she faces and how these can be improved through awareness of the needs of others, is demonstrated further in this video produced by the RNIB – Tips on interacting with people with sight loss. Remember we are all individuals, maintain space, be patient, be helpful.