Social distancing and other guidelines related to COVID-19 present unique challenges – and possible safety hazards — for people who are blind or have vision loss. For example, signage or markers in supermarkets and pharmacies designed to help people maintain social distancing may not be readable or detectable to people with low vision.
Lighthouse Guild offers six tips to help people who are blind or have low vision:
–Speak up. If you think someone may be coming near you, speak up! The other person may not be mindful that you are approaching. When in public spaces announce your presence. Use verbal cues, such as: “Please let me know when I can move up in the line.” “My dog is not trained for social distancing, so please direct me, and I’ll direct him,” or “My apologies for coming so close, it’s very difficult to tell how far apart to be, so if you can move farther away, that would be great.”
–Shop safely. Use delivery services whenever possible, or shop during off-peak hours. It’s helpful to remember that the recommended six feet distance is about the length of two full size shopping carts. Ask a store employee to tell you where you should stand at the check out counter. Stores and other businesses may not be aware that their COVID-19 signage is not readable by people with low vision. Encourage them to have large print, high contrast and color-coded signage.
–Embrace technology. Applications such as Aira and Be My Eyes, and using phone cameras for magnification, can help you maintain social distancing and navigate in public areas. Stay on track with your health by using telemedicine or telemental health services if you are not able to visit your healthcare professional’s office.
–Use the white cane. It’s advisable to use the cane for identification to heighten the awareness of others that you have a visual impairment. Using a cane in the current environment may help avoid confrontation and even provide the means for getting additional assistance.
–Adjust your mask. Put your mask on and adjust it before you leave your home. If you have low vision and wear glasses, try to make sure the mask is not causing your glasses to fog up before you leave the house. It is important not to touch the mask after you leave your home.
–Stay connected and active. Social distancing does not have to mean social isolation. Now may be a good time to reconnect with old friends via phone or text. Consider joining a tele-support group so you can chat with others in a group setting via phone. Religious establishments, schools, and cultural organizations in your area may be offering accessible virtual services and elearning. Consider learning a new skill, through classes currently being offered via phone or online. Listen to books you have been wanting to catch up on or perhaps complete a project around the house.
“We are all in a totally new situation. COVID-19 is making us adapt to different ways of doing things,” said Carol Moog, senior mobility instructor at Lighthouse Guild. At Lighthouse Guild we are dedicated to providing our programs and services to help people with vision loss lead full and productive lives during COVID-19 and beyond.”
For more tips, or if you or someone you know needs help, visit our COVID-19 Programs and Services or call 800-284-4422.
About Lighthouse Guild
Lighthouse Guild is the leading organization dedicated to addressing and preventing vision loss. We provide coordinated care for eye health, vision rehabilitation and behavioral health as well as related services directed at prevention, early detection and intervention of vision disorders. Reducing the burdens of vision loss and addressing and preventing vision loss are the cornerstones of Lighthouse Guild’s mission. For more information, visit lighthouseguild.org.