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Covid-19 challenging for visually impaired

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Blind people have struggled to adapt to Covid-19 health and safety conditions, a charity said yesterday.

Vince Godber, of Vision Bermuda, said people with sight problems had been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic and many had struggled to adjust.

Mr Godber said: “Blind and visually impaired people are among the most socially disadvantaged people anywhere in society, and Covid-19 has amplified that hugely.

“A lot of the things that have been put in place like social-distancing are very visual, instructions in shops are visual, so if you have visual impairment its hard to follow those.

“If you are out in a store and can't social-distance, some people get upset and aggressive because you can't follow the instructions and you only need one incident of that to put you off.”

Mr Godber, speaking on the eve of today's World Sight Day, said the problems were not unique to Bermuda.

He added that countries where guide dogs were used had their own problems because the animals were not trained to socially distance.

Mr Godber said that online shopping options were difficult for many people with sight problems, but the charity had been in talks with grocery stores to come up with a solution.

He added: “You need to be able to read your credit card, you need to be able to see what's on the website, and a lot of the shop-online options were ‘click and collect', so customers had to pick it up.

“Those things made if difficult, but we are talking to supermarkets about how they could make these things easier.”

Mr Godber said stores could use bright colours on floor markings and consistency in how measures were enforced could aid visually impaired shoppers.

He added: “A lot of shops, because they were reacting to things, put one system in place one week, then changed it the next week, and changed it again and that confused people completely.

“For people with very limited vision, the only solution is to have people who are willing to guide you around, and there are risks on both sides with that.

“An accessible phone-in system for groceries would be fantastic for people. The supermarkets have been incredibly helpful and incredibly willing to listen to our ideas.

“They have been in the middle of it, so it has been difficult and they have been doing the best they could.”

Mr Godber said the charity had moved its focus to the provision of emergency assistance for its clients and had organised medicine and meal deliveries with Meals on Wheels.

He added that Vision Bermuda had suffered financial problems because of the pandemic, but had also been fortunate to get good support from the public.

Mr Godber said: “A lot of our normal donations have been diverted for Covid-19 response, which is perfectly understandable.

“But we have had some extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity during the crisis to the point where people were leaving money in letterboxes to give out to people who were in need.

“Several times I have been stopped on the street and people have handed me groceries and said if anyone needs it to pass it along.

“People have been incredibly generous in these difficult times and we are extremely grateful for that.”

He added that Vision Bermuda had cut back on face-to-face courses and group activities at its Beacon House, Cedar Avenue headquarters. But the charity has taken the opportunity to do renovations, which are expected to be completed in March.

Mr Godber said that along with a teaching kitchen, a dedicated lecture area and other new features, the charity planned to install a mosaic on the building and was looking for proposals.

He said: “There isn't anywhere in the world a mosaic that is accessible to blind people and, since we are renovating the building, it's a fantastic opportunity to put it out there for people to submit their ideas and designs.

“It has to cater to people who have vision, who have low vision and no vision, which is a huge task but an exciting challenge to be the first to do this.

“We would like it to reflect the type of work we do and the history of Beacon House.”

Mr Godber said the charity planned to put submissions to a panel of board members and clients, who would select the final design.

Anyone interested in submitting a design can contact Mr Godber on 543-7922 or at rehab@visionbermuda.bm. For more information about Vision Bermuda or to make donations, visit visionbermuda.bm

Changing focus: Vince Godber, rehabilitation specialist at Vision Bermuda (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published October 10, 2020 at 2:00 pm (Updated October 10, 2020 at 1:07 pm)

Covid-19 challenging for visually impaired

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