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RNIB Survey: Lockdown could have long-term impact on people with sight loss in Wales

Our recent survey during the coronavirus pandemic has revealed that many blind and partially sighted people feel less independent and more socially isolated than ever.

The first UK-wide survey of how people with sight loss are coping during lockdown ran from April 28th until May 11th and highlights how the situation will severely impact people with sight loss long-term.

  • Two-thirds (66%) of respondents feel less independent now compared to before lockdown. 
  • One in four (25%) do not have someone in their household who can guide, effectively limiting their ability to leave the house for exercise and essential journeys.
  • 80% reported that the way they shop for their essential shopping has changed since lockdown, with just half as many blind and partially sighted people now going to shops alone. 
  • 21% have had to ration food.
  • 78% of respondents said they had less contact with 'the people who matter to me' while one in five now rarely speak to people over the phone, on video calls or in person. 
  • Many people with sight loss are unable to keep two metres away from others. Those who haven’t been able to keep their distance have reported being confronted by passers-by, or being so nervous about breaking the rules that they have lost confidence and are concerned about leaving the house.

“I am scared to go out”

Sheila Kinch, 65, from Ely in Cardiff, is partially sighted and has been shielding at home alone since lockdown began. Sheila said: “I’ve found lockdown very difficult. I have been good at sticking to a routine and thankfully have been in touch with friends, family and my church group online. I would be lost without that connection.

“But it is still so lonely. I miss human contact, even something as simple as giving someone a hug. Before the pandemic I was very independent. I would go out most days shopping or to see friends. Social isolation has caused me to lose confidence in my independence, which has really set me back. I am scared to go out because I have no idea if I am two metres apart from people, and I can’t use touch to navigate and steady myself. 

“I feel so cut off and having no idea how long this is going to last makes things so much worse. I hope I will be able to feel independent again but I’m just not sure.”

Campaigning for consideration

As Welsh Government discusses how lockdown could be eased, we will continue campaigning to ensure that any proposed measures consider the diverse needs of the blind and partially sighted community in Wales.

“I feel like no one has thought about how people with sight loss are going to cope long-term, which really worries me,” Sheila added. 

“Continued social distancing will be a nightmare for blind and partially sighted people. The community won’t be able to meet for ages, which takes away a lifeline for so many of us. And some of the changes that are being introduced so fast could have a lasting negative effect if our needs aren’t considered.”

Help is available

Our Director Ansley said: "The results of this survey are shocking and show that more needs to be done to enable blind and partially sighted people to maintain their independence through this difficult time. 

“The steps taken to ‘unlock our society’ must not exclude disabled people and widen the gap of disadvantage even further. While social distancing is an important health measure, we need to give more thought to how we ensure people with sight loss don't end up becoming prisoners of lockdown.

"Our Helpline is available to help and support all blind and partially sighted people and their families and carers on 0303 123 9999. We want people with sight loss to know that help is available."