London guide dog user highlights issues social distancing is causing people with sight loss

22 June 20

written by:

Róisín Treacy

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A man and his dog posing for the camera.

A guide dog user from London is highlighting the negative impact that the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines are having on people with sight loss.

Doctor Amit Patel, who lost his sight unexpectedly in 2013, has lent his voice to Fight for Sight’s campaign, calling on the government to update its advice to retailers and local authorities on social distancing measures to ensure the needs of people with poor vision are not excluded or put at risk.

A recent survey by Fight for Sight found that two in five respondents with significant sight loss were having difficulty following social distancing rules, while more than half said their access to food and other products has gotten worse during the pandemic. Almost half of those surveyed said their mental health has got worse.

Amit told Fight for Sight: “I cannot maintain any social distance with my guide dog Kika as she doesn’t understand the concept of social distancing and I’m unable to move away from people as I just cannot see them.”

These issues have only got worse as the lockdown restrictions ease and more and more people are out on the streets and visiting shops and public areas.

Amit said: “I‘ve made the difficult decision not to go for walks alone with Kika anymore, let alone go shopping - I know the usual help won’t be there in shops and I have no confidence in how people will behave in terms of maintaining distancing. I feel that the vulnerable are more at risk now that the measures are eased than they were before, as being forced to stay at home when other people can go out and about eats away at confidence and has an impact on your mental health too. It’s had a huge impact on the independence that I worked so hard to regain, as I can only go out safely with someone sighted now.”

Chief Executive of Fight for Sight, Sherine Krause said: “It’s vital that our high streets do not become no-go areas for blind or partially-sighted people. Business owners have a responsibility to make their premises accessible. Measures such as one-way systems and signs on the floor can be hard to see, so staff must be at hand to assist people who need it. Likewise, local authorities must ensure the needs of people with sight loss are being taken into account on our streets and public spaces as towns and cities begin to open up again. To ensure the needs of people with poor vision are not excluded or put at risk, we’re calling on the Government to urgently update its advice to retailers on social distancing measures.” 

Meanwhile, Fight for Sight is highlighting the need to continue to fund research for new, more efficient treatments and cures for the leading causes of blindness and sight loss to ease pressure on the NHS. Eye research is now at risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as the lockdown has jeopardised funding and left many scientists unable to access their labs. Fight for Sight has launched an urgent appeal to help researchers cover the costs of delays to projects and returning to the lab, and get eye research back on track to help transform lives through sight-saving treatments.

Read about our survey findings of impact of Covid-19 on people with sight loss Urgent appeal to keep sight-saving research going


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