Guide Dogs calls for public to ‘keep two meters distance but don’t disappear’ –

to help those trying to social distance without sight

 Just 22% of the public ‘completely comfortable’ offering to help someone with

sight loss while social distancing is in place.

As lockdown starts to ease and communities across the country begin to enjoy fewer
restrictions around travel and socialising, charity Guide Dogs has reported that
lockdown being lifted doesn’t mean greater freedom for everyone.

The charity has highlighted a new set of challenges for people with sight loss to
overcome – with social distancing measures limiting independence and increasing
isolation.

Guide dog owner Jonathan Attenborough from Perth explains: “Social distancing is
the most challenging aspect for me in the whole Covid-19 situation. Not being able to
socially distance is a major challenge to my independence and keeping myself safe.

“I’m less confident getting out and about than I was. Now that lockdown is lifting,
other people are trying to get their life back to what it was, but it’s a whole new world
for people with sight loss. It’s a lot for us to adjust to and it would really help if people
have an awareness of how they can play their part.”

Research conducted by the charity in the first week of June* found that just 22% of
the general public would feel ‘completely comfortable’ offering to help someone with
sight loss while social distancing measure were in place. Reasons for a lack of
comfort amongst this group included not knowing how to help from two meters away
(50%) and being concerned about making physical contact (37%).

These concerns are valid – the support people with sight loss have previously relied
on, such as sighted guiding which can involve taking someone’s elbow, is not
compatible with social distancing. This has left people with sight loss concerned
about accessing essential services such as supermarkets and public transport.

The research also found that although 78% of GB adults understood that those with
sight loss would face additional challenges while social distancing, 65% hadn’t
considered this prior to taking the survey.

To help combat the increasing isolation felt by those with sight loss during lockdown,
Guide Dogs is launching a campaign called ‘Be There’, which gives guidance to
encourage the public to feel confident in their ability to offer support whilst
maintaining social distancing.

1 – Keep your distance, but don’t disappear – People with sight loss may find it
challenging to social distance, so if you see someone with a guide dog or a long
cane then you can help them by making sure you keep two meters away, but that
doesn’t mean you can’t also offer your help.

As guide dog owner old Louis Moorhouse, 18, says: “My guide dog Kizzy hasn’t
been trained to social distance, that’s why we need help from the sighted public. If
you see us coming towards you, please don’t be offended that we might not be
observing the two meter rule or attempting to stop – we just don’t know that you are
nearby so you have to do the social distancing for us if you can. If we don’t
acknowledge that, please know that we are still grateful, we might just not know what
action you have taken to help keep us safe – feel free to let us know you are there!”

2 – Say hello and offer your help – Simply by letting someone with sight loss know
you are nearby; you are giving them the opportunity to ask for any help if they need
it. People often feel unsure about their ability to help someone with sight loss, but
their request could be a simple as finding out where a shopping queue starts, or if
there is a safer place to cross a road.

Ann Ruddick, 69 from North Yorkshire says: “It can be really challenging at the best
of times when you can’t see what’s going on around you. At the moment, it’s vital
that I get more verbal information from people around me, as a lot of the
environment around us is built on visual cues, which I can’t rely on. By saying ‘hello’
and offering some extra help could make the world of difference.”

3 – Describe the scene – We’ve all had to adapt to unusual sights during lockdown
– people standing apart in long lines outside of supermarkets for example. But those
with sight loss haven’t always witnessed this to the same extent, which can be
isolating and confusing. By describing what you can see to someone with sight loss,
you can help them to understand the environment and navigate accordingly.

Guide dog owner Jonathan Attenborough explains “I don’t always know there is a
queue because my dog Sammy takes me to the door of the shop, not the end of the
queue. Shops have introduced visual indicators and one-way systems and if you
can’t see they’re a major challenge.”

As part of a separate survey, people with sight loss had previously told Guide Dogs
that concerns about travelling once lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted included
their ability to social distance whilst using transport (84%) and access to support
whilst using transport (61%)**

Guide Dogs Director of Operations Pete Osborne said: “Lockdown being lifted isn’t
the start of greater freedoms for everyone. In the past couple of months, we have
consistently heard that people with sight loss are concerned about social distancing –
even the most confident are lacking confidence in the new environment. They are
concerned that people will avoid them and be less willing to help and have told us
that not knowing what the new environment looks like is making even doing normal
routes a stressful experience.

“Our concern is that if social distancing policies are to continue indefinitely for all our
safety, they actually have the potential to do harm. At an extreme, they could lead to
people with sight loss being avoided in public and assisted to stay at home, not
assisted to live independently.

“That’s why, in addition to telling the general public how they can help, we’re also
asking the government to work with us and the wider sight loss community to make
sure that sighted guiding, which is crucial for independence and reducing social
isolation, can be provided safely.”

For support or further information, please visit www.guidedogs.org.uk.

Guide Dogs calls for public to ‘keep two meters distance but don’t disappear’ –

to help those trying to social distance without sight

 Just 22% of the public ‘completely comfortable’ offering to help someone with

sight loss while social distancing is in place.

As lockdown starts to ease and communities across the country begin to enjoy fewer
restrictions around travel and socialising, charity Guide Dogs has reported that
lockdown being lifted doesn’t mean greater freedom for everyone.

The charity has highlighted a new set of challenges for people with sight loss to
overcome – with social distancing measures limiting independence and increasing
isolation.

Guide dog owner Jonathan Attenborough from Perth explains: “Social distancing is
the most challenging aspect for me in the whole Covid-19 situation. Not being able to
socially distance is a major challenge to my independence and keeping myself safe.

“I’m less confident getting out and about than I was. Now that lockdown is lifting,
other people are trying to get their life back to what it was, but it’s a whole new world
for people with sight loss. It’s a lot for us to adjust to and it would really help if people
have an awareness of how they can play their part.”

Research conducted by the charity in the first week of June* found that just 22% of
the general public would feel ‘completely comfortable’ offering to help someone with
sight loss while social distancing measure were in place. Reasons for a lack of
comfort amongst this group included not knowing how to help from two meters away
(50%) and being concerned about making physical contact (37%).

These concerns are valid – the support people with sight loss have previously relied
on, such as sighted guiding which can involve taking someone’s elbow, is not
compatible with social distancing. This has left people with sight loss concerned
about accessing essential services such as supermarkets and public transport.

The research also found that although 78% of GB adults understood that those with
sight loss would face additional challenges while social distancing, 65% hadn’t
considered this prior to taking the survey.

To help combat the increasing isolation felt by those with sight loss during lockdown,
Guide Dogs is launching a campaign called ‘Be There’, which gives guidance to
encourage the public to feel confident in their ability to offer support whilst
maintaining social distancing.

1 – Keep your distance, but don’t disappear – People with sight loss may find it
challenging to social distance, so if you see someone with a guide dog or a long
cane then you can help them by making sure you keep two meters away, but that
doesn’t mean you can’t also offer your help.

As guide dog owner old Louis Moorhouse, 18, says: “My guide dog Kizzy hasn’t
been trained to social distance, that’s why we need help from the sighted public. If
you see us coming towards you, please don’t be offended that we might not be
observing the two meter rule or attempting to stop – we just don’t know that you are
nearby so you have to do the social distancing for us if you can. If we don’t
acknowledge that, please know that we are still grateful, we might just not know what
action you have taken to help keep us safe – feel free to let us know you are there!”

2 – Say hello and offer your help – Simply by letting someone with sight loss know
you are nearby; you are giving them the opportunity to ask for any help if they need
it. People often feel unsure about their ability to help someone with sight loss, but
their request could be a simple as finding out where a shopping queue starts, or if
there is a safer place to cross a road.

Ann Ruddick, 69 from North Yorkshire says: “It can be really challenging at the best
of times when you can’t see what’s going on around you. At the moment, it’s vital
that I get more verbal information from people around me, as a lot of the
environment around us is built on visual cues, which I can’t rely on. By saying ‘hello’
and offering some extra help could make the world of difference.”

3 – Describe the scene – We’ve all had to adapt to unusual sights during lockdown
– people standing apart in long lines outside of supermarkets for example. But those
with sight loss haven’t always witnessed this to the same extent, which can be
isolating and confusing. By describing what you can see to someone with sight loss,
you can help them to understand the environment and navigate accordingly.

Guide dog owner Jonathan Attenborough explains “I don’t always know there is a
queue because my dog Sammy takes me to the door of the shop, not the end of the
queue. Shops have introduced visual indicators and one-way systems and if you
can’t see they’re a major challenge.”

As part of a separate survey, people with sight loss had previously told Guide Dogs
that concerns about travelling once lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted included
their ability to social distance whilst using transport (84%) and access to support
whilst using transport (61%)**

Guide Dogs Director of Operations Pete Osborne said: “Lockdown being lifted isn’t
the start of greater freedoms for everyone. In the past couple of months, we have
consistently heard that people with sight loss are concerned about social distancing –
even the most confident are lacking confidence in the new environment. They are
concerned that people will avoid them and be less willing to help and have told us
that not knowing what the new environment looks like is making even doing normal
routes a stressful experience.

“Our concern is that if social distancing policies are to continue indefinitely for all our
safety, they actually have the potential to do harm. At an extreme, they could lead to
people with sight loss being avoided in public and assisted to stay at home, not
assisted to live independently.

“That’s why, in addition to telling the general public how they can help, we’re also
asking the government to work with us and the wider sight loss community to make
sure that sighted guiding, which is crucial for independence and reducing social
isolation, can be provided safely.”

For support or further information, please visit www.guidedogs.org.uk.