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Working to ensure the vaccine programme is accessible for blind and partially sighted people

Health Minister Robin Swann has praised sight loss charities RNIB and Guide Dogs in Northern Ireland for creating advice for staff involved with administrating the coronavirus vaccine to blind and partially sighted people.

A healthcare professional giving a vaccine to a person wearing a mask

The advice, which has been endorsed by the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency (PHA), provides guidance on how to assist people with sight loss who are receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “This guidance is another positive development in our fight to inform and protect people against COVID-19.  It is essential that as many people as possible receive the vaccine and it is important that measures are put in place to ensure ease of access. I commend the RNIB and Guide Dogs NI for producing the guidance which will help in the smooth delivery of COVID-19 vaccine to those who are blind or partially sighted.”

The advice clarifies the latest rules on guiding someone with sight loss, etiquette around supporting someone with a guide dog and the importance of ensuring all written information is in the person’s preferred format of braille or large print. Significantly, it also points out that all sight loss is not apparent; therefore, it’s important to ask someone if they have any challenges due to poor eyesight.

Dr Jacqueline Witherow, Director of RNIB Northern Ireland, said: “This is a great example of how charities and government can work together to create better experiences for blind and partially sighted people. We’d like to thank the Minister, his Department and the PHA (Public Health Agency) for their support in developing our advice and getting it to the people working on the front line.”

Andrew Murdock, Policy and Engagement Manager for Guide Dogs Northern Ireland, added: “We hope the information and guidance contained within this document will ensure best practice for GP clinics, pharmacies and vaccination centres when assisting people living with sight loss.

“Following this guidance will enable staff at vaccine locations to provide the necessary support and confidence to people with a vision impairment when attending their appointment, and the offer of assistance upon arrival will be particularly reassuring for those who may have been shielding within the past year.”

For further information please see the Guidance on social distancing developed by RNIB and Guide Dogs, in partnership with Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Board and Health Trust Sensory Support Teams.

Other relevant updates can be found on Sight Advice FAQ.