We’ve had an enormous number of queries from blind and partially sighted people who have been struggling to properly access supermarkets, and unable to find online shopping slots.
This is often because priority online shopping slots are being given to people classed as ‘vulnerable’, however the list being used to define this group is based on vulnerability to coronavirus, and doesn’t yet take other barriers to shopping or accessing services into account.
However, social distancing is making it much harder for blind and partially sighted people to shop because many people rely on a guide who might not be part of their household, and some stores are also changing their layout or queuing systems to encourage people to stay two meters apart.
We're working with Guide Dogs, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Vision UK, and Visionary to raise this issue.
On 27 March RNIB CEO Matt Stringer joined the other sight loss organisations in writing to the Secretary of State for the Environment, George Eustice MP, about access to supermarkets for blind and partially sighted people, calling on the Government to ‘urgently work with supermarkets to ensure that people with sight loss are considered a priority group able to access online shopping’.
However, we haven't seen any improvements and our team spent two hours on hold to one supermarket trying to access an online slot. Because of this we launched a joint petition asking the Government and supermarkets to resolve this as soon as possible.
Thanks to everyone who signed our joint petition, which received 22,653 signatures. We have now handed in the petition to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and await a response.
RNIB are determined to support those who need us throughout the crisis in any way we can, and are working to make sure the criteria for these reserved slots are changed as soon as possible.
Find further information on accessing supermarkets.