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Please give me space: our new social distancing tool

We've worked with the Cabinet Office to design a “social distancing tool” to encourage the public to help others maintain a safe distance.

Image: A person's face is in partial view wearing the PGMS face mask.

Social distancing is a visual process, meaning it can be impossible, exhausting and stressful for many blind and partially sighted people. We’ve been working to develop an optional tool for anyone to use if they’re concerned about social distancing or find it hard to keep their distance.

What have RNIB created, and why?

Changes put in place to help maintain social distancing, like new queuing systems in shops, have made it harder for many of us to navigate even previously familiar environments. At the same time, we’ve heard about blind and partially sighted people being confronted in the street by other members of the public who haven’t understood why they have not been able to abide by social distancing rules.

Many blind and partially sighted people have shared feelings of anxiety around being unable to socially distance themselves and how this has directly affected their wellbeing. We’ve been working hard to raise public awareness through our World Upside Down campaign. But while we have reached a lot of people, we haven’t and won’t reach everyone.

As an optional solution, we’ve worked with the Cabinet Office to create the ‘Please give me space’ social distancing indicator. We’ve worked to make it applicable for anyone who finds it difficult to socially distance or who is anxious about people getting too close. This means you can avoid having to disclose the specific reason why people need to keep their distance.

It’s currently a downloadable design available on the Government website, but you could print it off and stick it to a bag, or a similar item if you wanted to. We’re looking into producing products that can be worn that display the logo, such as lanyards and facemasks.

We understand this option won’t suit everyone, and lots of people have told us that their guide dog or cane does this for them. But our research showed that nearly two-thirds of disabled people said their confidence in social distancing would likely increase if they wore a visual indicator, and 80 per cent of people thought an indicator was a good idea.

What does the design look like?

The design is a circle with a person in the centre, with two arrows pointing out to either side to indicate space. The Cabinet Office has also used the same logo on their facemask exemption, and we hope that in time it will receive widespread recognition.

We used the line “Please give me space” in big, clear, letters so it can be seen from a distance. We chose this expression because it explains exactly what we’re asking members of the public to do, it doesn’t need you to have seen it before in order to understand it, and it doesn’t tell others the reason why you are using the tool.

Through our research, we tested a number of options before choosing this line.

What other options are there?

This is not the only social distancing product available. The Partially Sighted Society have a number of different items on its website which many people have been using to show that social distancing is difficult for them.

And the Distance Aware programme has a shield-shaped logo which again is intended to indicate that it is particularly important or difficult to socially distance.

Equally, you may feel that you don’t want to use a social distancing indicator at all. The choice is entirely up to you.

Next steps

We’re working to find backers for the tool so that we can go into production. We’ve been looking at lanyards, facemasks and tabards as possible ways of wearing the “please give me space” message.

If you have any particular requests, please let us know, we’d love to hear what you’d prefer to use!

You can contact the Campaigns Team at [email protected], or by calling 0207 391 2123 on Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 5.30pm.