The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) has highlighted how people who are blind or vision impaired live in a very tactical world, yet Covid-19 has robbed them of their sense of touch with increased risks associated when touching public surfaces such as handrails.
The NCBI said this makes it more difficult for those blind or vision impaired to navigate their new environment safely.
Also. living with Covid-19 makes practising social distancing very challenging, leading to further isolation for these people. NCBI has reminded the public to consider this and to offer support.
NCBI head of advocacy June Tinsley said: “As the country is in the middle of yet another Level 5 lockdown, the public must have a greater understanding of the challenges faced and how they can help overcome them. Those living with sight loss in Ireland felt the impact of isolation due to Covid-19 dramatically in 2020. This led many not being able to leave their homes at all during this time.”
Although the community is hopeful the vaccine is imminent, it is important to highlight the unique challenges that Covid-19 present to the 54,810 people who are blind or vision impaired. These include:
June Tinsley added: “To aid the public, NCBI would strongly encourage people who are blind and vision impaired to always carry a long cane or a symbol cane when in public places to allow easy identification of vision impairment.”
How the public can help
NCBI service user Erika Reddy said: “Covid-19 and its associated restrictions have been really tough for everyone, but my world is so tactile that things like going to the supermarket safely have become impossible. My sense of touch is how I get through life, but this is also how you catch Covid-19.
"Since last March, I have barely left the house for fear of either catching the virus or the public not being aware I have sight loss and I cannot see if I am social distancing in a queue or not. I want to abide by Covid-19 rules too, but can only do that if the public respect my space and assist in a cordial manner.”
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