Following social distancing while you’re out and about can be challenging, but especially so if you have a visual impairment. Our rehabilitation team have come up with some suggestions to help you stay independent, and to cope during the pandemic

Getting Out 

  • Try not to be put off telling people you have a visual impairment. You may be surprised and amazed the difference it can make when people know.
  • If you’ve got a cane, use it. Keep it in view at all times and try not to fold it away
  • Take your cane even if you are with someone; hold it to the side and make it obvious you are together and being guided.
  • If you’re using your long cane, make it obvious you are using it. Make the sweep obvious by keeping the arc wide. If using either 2 or 3 point touch make it noisy to alert people to your presence. You could increase your arc width as long as you don’t compromise your safety, for example in a shop.
  • Keep to the inner shoreline, away from the kerb, and let others step around you.
  • Make yourself visible, wear a high visibility vest or sash.

Social Distancing

If you think someone is too close, tell them you have a visual impairment and ask them whether they are at the correct distance. This will also help you gauge the distance required.


Hidden Disability

  • Some shops and venues use the Sunflower Lanyard to help identify hidden disabilities, you can read more about it on the RNIB’s website by clicking here.
  • Ask at customer service desks in shops, or information points in bus and railway stations to see if they have any available.
  • Optelec, a Derbyshire company who often exhibit at our Sight Support Information Days, have produced a free card and lanyard which you can wear around your neck to say you are visually impaired. If you would like one, click here to fill in their online form. They only have a limited number available on a first come, first served basis.
yellow card with visually impaired printed on it in large, black letters, with a yellow lanyard

Be Prepared

  • If you are using public transport, ring and book assistance if possible. Ring the bus, taxi or train company ahead of your journey to find out what to expect, and whether the layout of the station has changed.
  • Keep hand wipes or sanitiser in your pocket. Remember to disinfect your cane handle too, and the end of your cane if it’s been on the ground. It could have all the usual things on it that you find on a pavement!
  • Always make sure you have enough money on you for a taxi home so that you know you can get back whatever happens with public transport.

Building up confidence to do things again

Think about what you want to do to start with, and plan, plan and then plan some more. As you start to build up confidence, start pushing the limits of what you do, if it’s safe to do so. Get back into it and it will become second nature again.

Have a think about what skills you have learned by yourself, and those you have been taught by others. You you may need a bit of refresher training. Contact us at any time for advice.

Information about Covid-19

Some of the national sight loss charities have put together some information about coronavirus specifically for people who are visually impaired. It covers everything from safe guiding and shopping deliveries to contacting local support networks. Click here to find out more

Your Mental Health and Well-Being

You may be worried about coronavirus (Covid-19) and how it could affect your life. Perhaps you are finding it difficult to spend a lot of time at home, or you have concerns about being around other people. The charity Mind has put together some good resources on mental health. You can find it online by clicking here. Alternatively, read our Five Steps to Mental Wellbeing which have been written with visual impairment in mind.

The RNIB offer talk and support befriending groups over the phone or online. The groups meet on weekdays and sessions last up to 55 minutes. All you need is access to a phone or computer in a quiet and comfortable place while you take part. The groups also support people with a dual sensory impairment/ hearing impairments. For more information please call 0303 123 9999 or visit the RNIB Talk and Support website page. You can also follow this link to refer yourself online.

With the Covid restrictions you can feel isolated, upset and anxious. To help with these feelings, you may benefit from talking to professional counsellors. There are a number of services that can offer you the time and space to express these emotions from the comfort of your home. 

The RNIB offer one-to-one telephone and online counselling sessions which can give you the time and support to talk through your situation and feelings. For more information contact 0303 123 9999, email, or follow this link to refer yourself online.

The Macular Society offer telephone counselling sessions for anyone who has been diagnosed with macular disease, or a family member. For more information and to refer yourself you can call 0300 3030 111, or fill in this online form to refer yourself



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