Official badges released to help people social distance
New resources have been designed to help anyone who may have difficulties or concerns in maintaining a safe, social distance during the coronavirus pandemic.
The ‘Please Give Me Space’ visual indicator, which has been backed by the Cabinet Office and features on the Gov.uk website, is being introduced for people to wear when they go out, in order to signal to others around them that they need to pay attention and give space to the wearer.
Research by sight loss charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) found 70 per cent of disabled people agree that it’s difficult to social distance.
Eleanor Southwood, Chair of Trustees at RNIB, said: “Social distancing has been difficult for many, and it’s turned the world upside down for blind and partially sighted people. Two thirds of people with vision impairment we surveyed told us they felt less independent since lockdown started, largely due to challenges and anxieties around social distancing.
“For those who want to use it, the ‘Please Give Me Space’ indicator will provide an option to indicate to passers-by that social distancing is either difficult or particularly important to them. In turn, this will help improve their confidence and allow them to participate in daily life such as shopping and exercise in the same way as everyone else.”
During development of the tool, data from RNIB’s research showed that nearly two thirds of people with disabilities feel 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.
The ‘Please Give Me Space’ markers have been designed inclusively for any person who feels anxious about social distancing, by giving them a way to signal to others that they need to be given space. Possible wearable options of ‘Please Give Me Space’ including lanyards, masks and t-shirts, are currently being considered for people who might want to use them.
Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Disabled People, said: “As we begin to emerge from some of the restrictions of lockdown, it remains vital that people continue to practice social distancing where possible. For those with sight loss or other reasons why social distancing is difficult or particularly important, this can present particular obstacles and prevent them from maintaining much-valued independence.
“I hope that these optional markers will provide greater confidence and reassurance to blind and partially sighted people, for those who want to use them, removing additional stress from their daily lives.
“This builds on continuing work across government to ensure our response to the pandemic is as inclusive and accessible as possible.”
James Taylor, Executive Director, Strategy, Impact and Social Change at disability equality charity Scope, said: “We know many disabled people have been shielding for the last few months and they are extremely anxious about going outside again. Scope’s research shows 87 per cent of disabled people are concerned that people will not respect social distancing. ‘Please Give Me Space’ is a positive initiative, to remind the public to be mindful of the safety of disabled people.
“There needs to be far more public awareness and understanding about the challenges facing disabled people in the post-lockdown world, as too many disabled people have been routinely forgotten throughout the crisis. The government needs to act too and send out clearer messaging regarding social distancing and the needs of disabled people.”
Morgan Vine, Head of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, said: “One in five people over the age of 75 have sight loss, which could prevent them being able to effectively socially distance, and increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
“With the pause of shielding, we know that many older people will want to explore how they can get back to the activities they used to take for granted, including going out in public spaces. For these groups, having a wearable scheme could be a helpful option, encouraging others to give them the space they need.
“We hope this builds confidence in people who are leaving their homes after months of isolation, and ensures they remain as safe as possible.”
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “The Please Give Me Space initiative will be a huge help for not only blind people, but others such as autistic people. Some autistic people may not understand the rules around social distancing and others may be highly anxious about them.
“We hope these cards will also help shop owners, police and the public to recognise and understand the difficulties some people face with social distancing. They could help many more autistic people and their families to be able to go out to the shops, parks and places they love without worries about people coming too close or confronting them unfairly.
The ‘Please Give Me Space’ logo is currently available to download as a PDF for mobile devices or to be printed from Gov.uk.
Notes to editors
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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.
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Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk