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 shops, restaurants, hotels, offices, banks and public spaces has become close to impossible.
The RNIB guidance circulated by NIHF to its members highlights the social distancing challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people and provides guidance to businesses about what they can do to help.
It is hoped the guidance will be circulated amongst staff within each hotel so they will have awareness of sight loss and the difficulties of socially distancing and will also be knowledgeable about how best to cater for their blind and partially sighted guests.
Country Director of RNIB in Northern Ireland, Dr Jacqueline Witherow, said: “Social distancing has proved to be a tremendous challenge for people with sight loss. The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation’s actions in sharing RNIB’s best practice guidance far and wide will help rebuild the independence 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.”
President of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation Stephen Meldrum, who is also the General Manager of Belfast’s iconic Grand Central hotel, said: “The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation is happy to pledge any support to the RNIB and assist them in raising awareness of the needs of blind and partially sighted people.
“The Federation will be making members aware of the RNIB’s best practice guidance and sharing its content to help us understand the issues and to enable us to offer exemplary service to all our customers.
“Social distancing has its challenges for everyone. The RNIB guidance highlights the challenges facing people with sight loss when trying to social distance and will help hotels like ours, to understand the needs of blind and partially sighted people. We want everyone to feel safe and confident staying in our hotels.”
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 is available on the RNIB website here:
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