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Scottish Government urged to include people with sight loss a priority group for online shopping

RNIB Scotland has written to Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, urging him to include blind and partially sighted people among the priority group able to access online shopping.

In his letter, director James Adams said: "As the challenges of food shopping have increased amid the uncertainty around Covid-19, several UK supermarkets have prioritised opening at certain times of the day for vulnerable and older people.

"However, this 'vulnerable' category is restricted to people who were identified as being at severe risk of medical illness from Covid-19, and does not account for people with sight loss, who have been facing severe issues accessing food.

"Blind and partially sighted people often rely on a combination of touch and guidance from another person to navigate. But the current unprecedented demand for supermarkets makes this much more challenging. Moreover, for the visually impaired who can shop, the social distancing markers on floors and the introduction of one-way routes around supermarkets cannot easily be navigated by either a long cane or guide-dog users. The additional touching of goods in supermarkets increases the possibilities of transmitting Covid-19."

Online shopping is the best available alternative for them, emphasised Mr Adams.

"However, many blind and partially sighted people have contacted us to tell us that the supermarket delivery slots they relied on before the pandemic are booked up for weeks, resulting in them being unable to access essentials," he said.

"We are asking the Scottish Government to urgently work with supermarkets to ensure that people with sight loss are considered a priority group able to access online shopping."

RNIB, along with other sight loss sector charities Guide Dogs, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary have written to leading supermarkets to ensure people with sight loss are considered through this difficult time.