What does this “Unprecedented time” mean for the Visually Impaired Community?
Hi, my name is Aly Hegazy and I am currently interning at VIP World Services as a digital marketer. What lured me towards this opportunity is how VIP Worlds’ culture is dedicated to making a positive social impact through its corporate responsibility initiatives. Moreover , the practical aspect of my position draws heavily on exchange of ideology and the management of cross sectorial boundaries, which are areas of knowledge that I am profoundly looking forward to exploring in greater detail.
After the novel coronavirus made its presence around the world, one country after another have adopted harsh measures to stop COVID-19 from spreading and overwhelming hospitals. The good news is health officials around the world are being proactive in working to stop the virus from spreading. Families are gradually returning to some of the activities that paused when the COVID-19 pandemic began. With the virus still spreading, however, it is important for everyone to continue social distancing. Now, imagine you are blind or have a visual impairment. How do you manage to navigate public spaces under the coronavirus restrictions?
During my time with VIP World, I had the pleasure to contact Holly Tuke, a salient advocate of the VIP Community, as well as the owner and creator of the ‘lifeofablindgirl’ blog site. The conversations we’ve had taught me a lot about how social distancing is a challenge for a VIP and what can be done about it.
“Going out independently has been the thing that I’ve found most difficult during the post-lockdown transition. I’m getting used to putting my cane skills to use again (…) social distancing can be challenging, as well as things like the fact that the social distancing markers in shops and other places aren’t tactile which can make things difficult.” - Holly
Social distancing creates different challenges for the visually impaired, depending on the level of their sight loss. The totally blind are completely reliant on their caning and auditory skills to maneuver in the current environment.
Those with partial vision loss can rely on their visual cues to sense shapes and assist them. Many now resort to longer-than-usual canes and walk somewhat slower than usual to anticipate what is in front of them.
Likewise, Holly shared some tips everyone should follow when coming in contact with a VIP.
- Don’t grab us: you may think we need your help but during normal times this isn’t helpful, but even more so during these uncertain times.
- Ask if we need any help, rather than assuming. If we decline your offer, then please respect that. If we do need some help then ask how you can help us and follow our lead.
- Look out for your blind and visually impaired friends and family: the post-lockdown transition can be a daunting time for all of us, so don’t forget about your blind and visually impaired family and friends. Many aspects of the new normal aren’t accessible, so a bit of support navigating the inaccessibility of this new way of life is appreciated at times when we may need it.
During these uncertain times, regardless of ability or disability, we all need to remember to be kind and mindful to one another. Learning to be confident and independent in a sighted world can often be a challenging progress but celebrating ones differences can surely bring out the best versions of ourselves. One would hope, that people can seek to learn about the positive aspects of the VIP community, as well as help in changing the world in becoming more of an accessible place for blind and visually impaired people.