RNIB commends FSB Northern Ireland for supporting blind and partially sighted people

Post date: 
Tuesday, 8 September 2020

RNIB has acknowledged the support of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in circulating RNIB’s best practice guidance to its 6,000 members.

During coronavirus, social distancing has turned the lives of blind and partially sighted people upside down, with two thirds saying they feel less independent now than before lockdown. Socially distancing safely in places such as supermarkets, restaurants, banks and public spaces, has become even more difficult.

The simple but essential guidance circulated by FSB NI, highlights the social distancing challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people and provides guidance to businesses about what they can do to help.

Country Director of RNIB in Northern Ireland, Dr Jacqueline Witherow, commented: 

“Social distancing has proved to be a tremendous challenge for people with sight loss. The FSB’s actions in sharing our best practice guidance far and wide will help rebuild the independence and blind and partially sighted people have lost and provide confidence in navigating a changed world. We want businesses and the wider public to better understand the difficulties our community faces and the support they can provide to those with sight loss.”

FSB NI Regional Chair, Brendan Kearney said: 

“Lockdown has been deeply disruptive and challenging for everyone, as we adapt to social distancing and other measures to keep us safe, but there are particular challenges facing people who are blind and partially sighted. We very much welcome the publication of this guidance by RNIB, which contains useful information to assist business owners and their staff when dealing with blind or partially sighted people in this new environment. 

“With Northern Ireland being a small business led economy, we are delighted to play our part in communicating this advice to our 6,000 strong membership to increase awareness of best practice.”

Highlighted below are some of the difficulties facing blind and partially sighted people when trying to safely socially distance and the best practice guidance for businesses:

Challenges with "the new normal"

  • How can a blind or partially sighted person tell if they’re two metres away from the next person?
  • How can someone with sight loss see the floor markings telling them where to walk and in what direction?
  • Blind and partially sighted people have reported being shouted at with shops for not keeping a safe distance and have incurred injuries and embarrassment from Perspex screens at checkouts, etc.
  • Guide dogs aren’t trained to adhere to social distancing restrictions.
  • Changes in layout to both retail and public spaces brought about by Covid 19 mean that once familiar places are now unknown territory.

Notes to Editors:

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