We keep hearing about ‘social distancing’ and how it’s going to become part of who we are and how we live for some time to come. Simple some people say – just be mindful and keep your distance. It’s enforced in shops already, and as more places open up it will be a big part of the plan.
Getting out and about with social distancing
Why do I want to get out and about? I’ve been at home now for many months and I like to keep my independence – so the skills that I’ve learned and my self-confidence both need building back up.
If you can’t get out, how about practicing your skills at home – get your long cane out and have a go around your home. Don’t forget that you made need upper and lower body protection if you go in your garden, as things might have grown!
So here are my 11 top tips for social distancing if you are blind or visually impaired.
Don’t be put off letting people know that you have a visual impairment.
Sometimes we keep it quiet and don’t want others to know. Well now it’s time for a change, let it out of the bag! It can take a long time to be comfortable letting others know, from admitting it to family all the way to long caning it in your local area. The difference it makes when people know is amazing!
If you’ve got a cane, use it! Keep it in view at all times (people tend to fold them away as soon as they can).
We know not everyone knows what a white cane is, but most do. It makes you noticeable, that’s why a symbol cane is called “symbol”, to let others know. Even if it’s still in the drawer (you know the one, in the kitchen with all the other stuff in, elastic bands, sellotape, etc.) – get it out!
Take your cane even if you are with someone; hold it to the side and make it obvious you are together and being guided.
You could fold your long cane in half so you don’t get tangled, or kick it up into your face.
If you’re using your long cane, make it obvious you are using it!
Keep your starting sweep obvious, make sure your arc is wide enough. Sometimes we keep it tight as we learn to use a cane more efficiently.
Using a bit of three-point touch keeps it noisy – this is where you add an extra tap to check your shoreline, it will help people hear you coming.
You could increase your arc width as long as you don’t compromise your safety, for example in a shop.
Keep to the inner shoreline, away from the kerb, and let others step out into the road.
Make your path definite and confident – and at least there should be fewer A-boards blocking the pavements at the moment!
If you think someone is too close, tell them you have a visual impairment and ask them whether they are at the correct distance.
It will also help you to test the distance when you hear them answer. If they are not, it may prompt them to move away.
Use a symbol you could contact seescape (01592) 644979 to issue you with one and to provide training. People who have had NVT training (on the lightbox) following a stroke/brain injury and worry about social distancing in these challenging times, may also benefit from using a symbol cane. Please contact us.
There are lots of other ways to make yourself visible, such as a high visibility vest or sash. Some shops and venues use the Sunflower Lanyard to help identify hidden disabilities, you can read more about it on the RNIB’s website.
It depends on what you feel comfortable with. You may find that people realise you have low vision when your phone starts speaking to you! Or take your magnifier out with you, it may help visually explain to others.
If you are using public transport, phone and book assistance if possible.
Ring the bus company and ask: “What can I expect on the bus, such as a new layout, etc?” Phone to find out the new system and what to expect if you go to any appointments in the future.
One thing to do is assume your hands need washing the minute that you leave the door.
Try to get out of the habit of touching your face (that’s easier said than done!) If you can get the correct hand wipes or sanitiser, put it in your pocket.
Disinfect your cane handle, and the end of it too if it’s been on the ground (it could have all the usual things on it you find on a pavement!)
Disinfect what you feel needs it, and when you’ve done wash your hands too.
We hope you have found these top tips for social distancing useful. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like further support – (01592) 644979