A blind campaigner is calling for people with sight loss to reach out to RNIB Cymru during the coronavirus pandemic.
Anne Wilkins, from Bridgend, says that blind and partially sighted people are experiencing unique challenges as a result of the crisis, but that advice and support is available.
Anne said: “Many people across Wales are struggling, but people living with sight loss may not know where to turn for answers to their very specific questions.
“Social distancing is a big issue. Some people who have lost their sight have a concept of distance, but someone like me who has never been able to see has no idea what a two-meter distance means. A family member had to explain it to me by making me stretch out my arms. That’s why it’s important to keep that two metres away from a blind person if you see them out for a walk – they might not know you are there.
“Many people are worried about being guided if they are outside the house or being approached by strangers. Others are worried about the increased sense of isolation they now feel, and a large number are worried about accessing essential goods and services like food, medicine and healthcare advice.
“I would advise people living with sight loss, and their friends and families, to contact the RNIB Helpline with their worries and concerns. This is a troubling time for all of us but help and information is available.”
121,000 blind and partially sighted people currently live in Wales. Many rely on guides, personal assistants and public transport to live independently. The recent changes to everyday life have left some feeling like their support network and independence has vanished.
In response, RNIB has improved telephone and online access to its Sight Loss Advice Service – which offers emotional support and practical advice to blind and partially sighted people and their families.
Ansley Workman, Director of RNIB Cymru, said: “The measures to stop the spread of coronavirus are having an unprecedented impact on the way that people with sight loss go about their day-to-day lives.
“We have scaled up our telephone and online advice service to answer the questions that blind and partially sighted people have right now and are connecting people with local support. It’s very important that anyone affected by sight loss in Wales knows they are not alone, and we are here to support them.”
The service is providing information on a range of issues affecting people with sight loss during this national health crisis, including:
- How to access essential items, such as food and medicine
- Navigating safely while adhering to social distancing advice
- Advice on eye health at a time when non-urgent appointments have been cancelled
- Support to reduce loneliness during self-isolation
- Information about benefits and financial support provided by the Welsh and UK Governments
RNIB Eye Health Liaison Officer (ECLOs), which are normally clinic-based in hospitals, are also on hand over the phone to offer practical advice on living with sight loss and emotional support.
RNIB’s Sight Loss Advice Service is available to anyone concerned on 0303 123 9999 between 8am and 8pm on weekdays, and between 9am and 5pm on Saturdays. Advice is also being updated online via https://www.sightadvicefaq.org.uk/independent-living/Covid-19