Additional Social Distancing Support in Supermarkets Required for the Visually Impaired

Ruth Maguire MSP has called for extra support to be given to visually impaired people to help follow social distancing guidelines in supermarkets following concerns being raised locally and by leading organisations.

This comes after a nationwide survey by the Royal National Institute of Blind People found that three in four people with visual impairments are concerned about getting access to food with one in five even having to ration food.

The survey also found that over 65% of respondents have had difficulty in securing a supermarket delivery slot.

The SNP MSP for Cunninghame South said: “It’s clear that measures taken by supermarkets to ensure the safety of staff and customers, while worthwhile, have impacted on the independence of blind and visually impaired people in North Ayrshire and across Scotland.

“Guide dogs are not trained to recognise socially distanced queues or one way system markings on shop floors. Perspex barriers at checkouts are also proving a challenge for people with visual impairments who are looking to do their food shopping.

“I’d like to call on the Scottish Government to take advice from the RNIB on how best to make adjustments that accommodate the needs of people with visual impairments during this crisis. In the mean time I would also like to call on the public to give due care and attention to people with guide dogs to allow them extra space in supermarkets.”

James Adams, director of sight loss charity RNIB Scotland, said: “We have been pressing for a referral system to give vulnerable people with sight loss priority access to supermarket delivery slots. Many usually rely on others to guide them by the arm, but can’t under social distancing guidelines. Getting about independently is now more difficult when you can’t judge if you are in too close proximity to someone else, and the indicators which tell you where to queue and stand are largely visual.

“We are calling for government to give guidance to businesses and the general public on what can be done to help blind and partially sighted people social distance safely. We do appreciate the importance of distancing to contain the spread of the coronavirus. We just need to make sure people with sight loss don’t end up becoming prisoners of lockdown and deprived of essentials.”

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