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New guidance for blind and partially sighted people during social distancing restrictions

The Department of Health Social Care has today (3rd September) issued guidance announcing that people with sight loss can be guided by people outside their household or support bubble.

The announcement for England comes after similar guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, following months of campaigning from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The charity has been calling for clear confirmation of the ways that blind and partially sighted people can be guided safely during social distancing since lockdown began.

Holly Matthies, 38, who is registered blind and uses a cane, relied on her husband for guiding support prior to social distancing restrictions. She said: “My husband is more vulnerable to COVID, so he’s been shielding. I’m used to being able to get help from him when we’re out, and that’s the way that it’s been for the whole time that we’ve been together.

“Before we had access to priority shopping slots, I had to do all of the shopping, which I hadn’t done before, and I had real difficulties trying to distance from others and follow visual markers in shops.

“I’m still working, and my job requires me to work in person, so I’ve been walking in. That means I come into contact with people all the time. It’s a familiar route, so I can do it myself, but I worry about all the people I walk past.

“It’s nice to know that there’s now help available.”

Working with partners at Guide Dogs and Thomas Pocklington Trust, RNIB has used the government guidance to produce tailored advice for sighted people explaining how to help partially sighted people through guiding.

Eleanor Southwood, Chair of Trustees at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), said:

“Restrictions introduced because of coronavirus have had a unique and disproportionate impact on blind and partially sighted people. For those who rely on being guided by others to get out, exercise or to carry out daily tasks, requirements to avoid close contact with people from outside their household has meant that their independence has been drastically reduced.

“For months we have been calling for official guidance on how blind and partially sighted people can be guided safely, through our World Upside Down campaign, and we’re pleased to see this being formally announced at last.

“Alongside the new information from Government, we’ve also produced practical advice on how blind and partially sighted people can be guided safely in different situations in line with their guidance. This can be found on our website,”.

Notes to editors

All media enquiries to the Laura Bridgman on 0207 391 2223 or [email protected]. Or, for urgent enquiries out-of-hours, please call 07968 482812.

About RNIB

We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are.

RNIB. See differently.

Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit