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LETTER: Think of the visually impaired

Readers' letters | Published:

A reader is urging others to think of the visually impaired.

A generic photo of a human eye next to an eyesight test.

As lockdown eases across the West Midlands, blind and partially sighted people face a growing list of social distancing challenges. In response, Birmingham and Black Country Sight Loss Councils have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issues and provide guidance to local businesses.

Shops have one-way systems that are difficult to navigate due to floor markings that visually impaired people often cannot see. Guide dogs do not understand social distancing measures and blind and partially sighted people often will simply not see a queue. We’ve had reports of people angrily shouting at visually impaired people due to this misunderstanding, particularly in supermarkets, which has added to the stressful situation.

We know blind and partially sighted people worry about travelling on public transport and getting the assistance they need under social distancing measures. And this is not a small problem. There are more than two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK and 250 people will start to lose their sight every day! In the West Midlands alone we have 83,100 blind and partially sighted people.

Sight Loss Council members have created a suite of best practice guides for local transport providers, healthcare settings, retail outlets and other businesses to highlight what measures they could put in place to help blind and partially sighted people social distance. The guides are available on the SLC website: sightlosscouncils.org.uk/resources

The SLC is also calling all blind and partially sighted people in Birmingham and the Black Country to share their social distancing stories.

Using the hashtag #DistancingBlind, we want to raise public awareness by sharing short videos, blogs or quotes of visually impaired people’s experiences of social distancing and life in lockdown.

Joshua Feehan, Engagement Manager for Birmingham and Black Country Sight Loss Councils

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Email us at letters@expressandstar.co.uk or write to: Letters, Express & Star, 51-53 Queen Street, Wolverhampton WV1 1ES. Letters MUST include the writer’s name, address and telephone number. Letters will only be published anonymously in exceptional circumstances. The editor reserves the right to condense or amend letters.

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