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Friday, 3 July 2020

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Charity releases guidance to support vision impaired during COVID-19

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Sight loss charity Blind Veterans UK has released new advice on assisting blind and vision-impaired people with shopping throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Nicky Shaw, Blind Veterans UK’s Director of Operations, said:

“Many people want to provide support to those who are vulnerable at this time.

“This community spirit is fantastic and can be a great help but it is important to remember a few simple things when assisting those with certain disabilities such as blindness.

“Many vision-impaired people tell us how they have struggled to identify food containers, and how they either learned or were taught systems to stop that happening.

“The problem is that those systems often begin when buying the items in the shop so if you are no longer doing your own shopping then difficulties can arise.”

Blind Veterans UK’s advice is that vision-impaired people often have a system in place to help them with tasks like sorting, storing and cooking food. We ask those helping someone with their shopping or other related tasks to follow their existing system as much as possible when helping them during this difficult time.

Nicky Shaw added:

“The most important thing, if it’s at all possible, is to talk to the person you are going to help to find out key information about their shopping preferences and systems they have in place to sort or label food.

“Simple questions like ‘do you have any allergies or dietary requirements?’, ‘would you prefer vegetables or fruit that is pre-chopped to make cooking easier?’, and ‘do you have a system for sorting and labelling food that you need your help with?’, will make all the difference to a vision-impaired person.”

The guidance makes clear that people should only help if they are completely well and have not been in contact with someone who has symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) during the last 14 days.

Advice on delivering food and other items includes the importance of labelling the food before delivering it to the blind or partially sighted person.

Government advice is that volunteers or those helping with shopping should not enter the person’s home. This is to reduce the risk of infection. For many people, however, they will need you to explain the content of any shopping and perhaps cooking instructions.

To do this safely Blind Veterans UK advises speaking to the person by telephone to explain what shopping has been purchased and left for them. If this is not possible, then it is advised to stand outside, at least 2 meters/6 feet away from the person when explaining the contents of shopping.

The full advice can be found at blindveterans.org.uk/shopping

Blind Veterans UK is also offering a short and concise visual impairment online training course for businesses, which has been created by accredited Rehabilitation Officers for Visual Impairment Officers. The course will not only help organisations understand the issues faced by a person who is blind but will also address the challenges of safely accessing basic necessities.

Last week Blind Veterans UK launched a National Support Service to allow the charity to adapt how it supports its 5,000 beneficiaries, many of which are amongst those most at risk from the virus.

More than 90% of Blind Veterans UK beneficiaries are over 70 years old and subsequently being advised by the Government to self-isolate. This new temporary service will help blind veterans through this upcoming period of social isolation.

You can keep updated on Blind Veterans UK’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) at blindveterans.org.uk/coronavirus where you can also find out more about supporting the charity to make this new service possible.

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