Bristol and Gloucestershire VI forums: talking Covid19 support

 We recently held VI forums in Bristol and Gloucestershire, where blind and partially sighted people shared their Covid-19 experiences.

Bristol VI Forum

The Bristol forum was run by our Bristol Sight Loss Council (SLC). SLC members began by giving an update on their work since the start of lockdown. This included:

  • Producing social distancing guidance for businesses and service providers
  • Meeting with Bristol Council to provide feedback on new Bristol street designs
  • Meeting with sight loss charities to ensure blind and partially sighted people receive adequate support
  • Working with First Bus Bristol on a video with social distancing information for visually impaired passengers.

 

Personal Lockdown stories

A lively conversation then followed, focusing on participants’ experiences of the pandemic. One person shared her experience on a recent hospital visit when she wasn’t shown where the hand sanitiser was and couldn’t see to find it. Another person praised the support he received from the local community.

He said: “I’ve found the local networks and local WhatsApp groups really helpful during the pandemic.”

In answer to a question about improvements if there is a second Covid-19 wave, all members said they hoped they will be able to access online food shopping deliveries. Going to supermarkets independently during lockdown was difficult for many visually impaired people, which meant relying on online deliveries which were often hard to come by.

 

Gloucestershire VI Forum

The forum was led by the Gloucestershire SLC. SLC members highlighted a recent meeting with MP Alex Chalk to raise the difficulty guide dog owners have had accessing taxis. Engagement Manager Alun Davies spoke about the work the SLC has been doing to keep visually impaired people informed. He said: "Right from the beginning of lockdown we've been working with hospitals and health services, asking them to send information out in large print and via local radio”.

 

Accepting the white cane

One person told the forum that when she was growing up, she was encouraged to hide her visual impairment. However, she has found using her white cane has made social distancing much easier. She said: "It has made me more accepting that I need to use my white cane." Another participant with Glaucoma, shared the difficulty she had getting eye drops during the pandemic.

 

Future work

The concerns and experiences raised at both forums, will help us shape our work with local councils and service providers. Both forums are recruiting visually impaired volunteers who are passionate about advocating for others.

 

Find out more on our volunteering page