The coronavirus pandemic has been a confusing time for all of us at RNIB Cymru. But there is a silver lining.
It has forced us to rapidly adapt to new ways of working, reflecting the changing priorities and needs of our community. With this has come successes, failures and important insight that will stick with us long after the pandemic is over.
By making sure we listened closely to what the blind and partially sighted community were telling us during the first weeks of lockdown, we were able to identify the issues that matter to you the most and act fast in response.
By collecting daily real-time intelligence from our Helpline, social media, surveys and wellbeing calls, it became clear that the major issue for many people across the UK was access to groceries.
Lots of you have found it difficult to access supermarkets during lockdown. Online shopping slots were booked solid for weeks in advance, and those living with sight loss were not considered a priority group for access.
Some people experienced a lack of understanding from fellow customers and supermarket staff for not being able to follow the new rules. Some worried that they wouldn’t be able to fill their fridges at all.
As a result, access to shopping became our priority campaign. UK-wide we worked with other sight loss sector charities on a petition and pressed the four national governments and supermarkets to ensure that people with sight loss were considered a priority group to access online shopping. We worked with our community to ensure their voices were heard.
The campaign has already had some success. We achieved widespread media coverage in Wales and across the four nations with blind and partially sighted people sharing their experiences.
We have raised the issue several times with the Government and within the Senedd. Importantly, we have learned much about our community.
To date, however, there has been no Welsh Government intervention on the prioritisation of customers with sight loss. As a result, we have broadened our scope.
We now work with supermarkets UK-wide to develop guidance and support them to understand the needs of their customers. We have had positive responses from some supermarkets and will continue to press this with other retailers.