Covid-19: The challenges facing the blind and visually impaired

Elizabeth Manuel lost most of her vision ten years ago following a stroke Credit: ITV Meridian

As more shops prepare to re-open later this month, many customers will be met with new queuing systems and social distancing measures - all necessary to keep shoppers safe, post lockdown.

But for people who are blind, those simple changes can present real challenges. How can you keep your distance from someone you can't see?

For others with a visual impairment, the coronavirus crisis has been a time of anxiety and loneliness, as they continue to stay at home.

For Elizabeth Manuel the beach existed only her imagination, weeks after lockdown. Elizabeth is considered vulnerable as she suffered a serious stroke 10 years ago, and lost most of her vision.

  • Elizabeth Manuel

Elizabeth was told to self-isolate in her Southsea home, where she lives alone. She does now go for walks. But she's still struggling to get food delivered.

The RNIB says calls to their helpline have gone up significantly.

Many of those phoning are worried about getting hold of food. Visually impaired people often rely on online deliveries, and now can't get slots.

  • Keith Valentine, Royal National Institute of Blind People

And some of those who are brave enough to go out are faced with other challenges such as Annette Hornsby.

Annette Hornsby has been faced with challenges while attempting to shop Credit: ITV Meridian

Annette and her guide dog Charity have been the target of verbal and even physical abuse while getting essentials whilst out in Abingdon.

Now Annette hardly leaves the house.

  • Annette Hornsby

Annette Hornsby says people need to adapt to help those with visual impairments Credit: ITV Meridian

Annette and Elizabeth have adapted their way of life to their blindness. They say we now need to adapt to help people like them survive.

For people who are struggling to get out to a supermarket during the pandemic- a number of supermarkets are prioritising and helping those with disabilities through their online delivery services.

The RNIB are supporting people who are unable to get out and about during the coronavirus pandemic Credit: RNIB

You can find out where to access help through the RNIB here or you can call their helpline on 0303 123 9999.

Blind Veterans UK is asking for volunteers to come forward to help people with their shopping Credit: Blind Veterans UK

Elsewhere, Blind Veterans UK are asking for volunteers to come forward to help people with tasks such as shopping, sorting, storing and cooking food.

Click here for more support and information.

The charity Open Sight Hampshire also provides support to visually impaired and blind people across the county.

The charity can help with technical support, local food delivery and essential information.