Getting out and about with confidence following lockdown
We know that visually impaired people have been isolated, lonely, and anxious about leaving their homes during the pandemic. As the world unlocks, we think some may need extra encouragement to re-engage.
A trip out, shopping and how we access services changed for everyone in 2020 because of Covid-19, with changes such as social distancing, PPE, shop layouts and queuing systems being just a few. However, these have posed extra challenges to people with a visual impairment since the beginning of the lockdowns. Some people have reported to members of the Yorsensory team being anxious about going out because they haven’t been able to identify how far they are away from other people or read signage in a shop explaining directions or new layouts, some have even experienced abuse as a result. This has impacted on confidence, physical strength, and feelings of isolation.
The Rehabilitation Officers in the Yorsensory team have continued to work with and provide remote support to adults with a visual impairment throughout Covid-19, however, lockdowns, shielding and changes in restrictions have meant that home visits and mobility training have not always been possible or available.
With the easing of restrictions and a return to visits and mobility training some clients have been ready to get out and about. Others have reported loss of confidence, impact on overall physical health and concerns about being able to socially distance and navigate new obstacles appearing in public areas because of the pandemic.
As businesses began to reopen in April 2021 and find new ways to operate within the guidelines there has been client feedback about new challenges and layouts, such as pub and café furniture spilling out onto pavements, pedestrian areas, roads and even blocking footpaths in the city centre. Examples of other new obstacles appearing include barriers outside shops for queuing systems, ‘A’ Boards and low level signage in shops indicating entrances, exits and directions. These are posing new difficulties, some recent referrals to the team have been for new and refresher mobility training based on these changes, as well as lack of opportunity to get out and about.
Some people have found reassurance in knowing that other people with a visual impairment have had a similar experience, finding it difficult to get out and feeling isolated. A client reported that the combination of health difficulties, shielding and sight loss had made them feel like they wanted to become a ‘hermit’. Another client reported that whilst shielding, to keep up their mobility skills and physical stamina they had developed and adapted a mobility route around the house which extended into the garden weather permitting!
What Might Help:
- Ask family/friends to accompany you on walks to help build confidence
- Take your time and set small achievable goals to build up your routes and stamina
- Approach your local sensory team for advice, support and/or training
- Contact other organisations such as Move Mate to enquire about being paired up with a local walking buddy; Metro Blind Sport and British Blind Sport’s who run ‘The Active at Home Programme’ and Age UK’s ‘Simple Ways to Keep Active at Home’
If you have lost confidence, need reassurance, refresher or further mobility training to help support getting you back out and about, please contact the Yorsensory Team on 01904 202292 or email us at [email protected]
The Wilberforce Trust is dedicated to helping those with visual impairment, sight loss, hearing loss and other disabilites across York, North Yorkshire and the surrounding areas.