Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
As per the Government’s advice, everyone must stay alert to help stop the spread of COVID-19. For more information on this along with guidance on how to stop the infection spreading visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19
Support Available in each SLC area
We have summarised what support is available for blind and partially sighted people, along with the contact details for more information, in each of the SLC areas. Download this for your area via the links below:
Covid-19 home testing for blind and partially sighted people
The government has made a number of accessibility improvements to at-home Covid-19 testing, following our work with Thomas Pocklington Trust and sector partners.
· The ability to order testing kits over the phone by calling 119.
· Free videocall support via the Be My Eyes app (https://www.bemyeyes.com/)
· Boxes that are easier to assemble for the returning of tests
NHS Covid-19 app
The NHS #Covid19 app for Apple and Android devices is free to download from the Apple App Store (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/id1520427663) and Google Play Store (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.nhs.covid19.production). The app has a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts and venue check-in via QR codes.
Thomas Pocklington Trust has been working with sector organisations to ensure the app is as accessible as possible!
If you need access to information about the app in large print, braille or another format, email email@example.com
You can also send accessibility feedback to this email address.
Sighted guiding guidance
RNIB, Guide Dogs and Thomas Pocklington trust have published guidance on how to safely provide sighted guiding assistance for blind and partially sighted people.
Chris Stephens MP tables Early Day Motion on accessible vaccines
On Thursday 4 March, SNP MP Chris Stephens tabled an Early Day Motion, calling for the vaccination roll out and vaccine testing to be made accessible for blind and partially sighted people.
Standing up for blind and partially sighted people on vaccines and testing
The Government and NHS are rolling out access to Covid-19 vaccines and community testing across the country. Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) and Sight Loss Councils (SLC) are working with other sight loss sector organisations to make sure that the needs of blind and partially sighted people are considered as part of this important work.
Covid-19 testing for blind and partially sighted people
Covid-19 tests are now available to anybody in England who has symptoms. You can apply for a test online here.
This test is called an antibody test and it will tell you if you currently have the virus. The test usually involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud. You can do the swab yourself (if you are aged 12 or over) or someone can do it for you.
The tests are available at regional testing centres, mobile testing centres and via home test kits.
At regional drive through testing centres or temporary mobile testing centres blind and partially sighted people can be supported by a sighted driver and advisory staff are available at the centres to provide assistance.
Home testing kits are self-administered. The feedback from blind and partially sighted people is that the instructions are not currently in an accessible format and the test can be challenging to administer. Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) is working with sector partners and the government to improve the accessibility of testing instructions to include alternative formats. To find out more on the work TPT is doing to lobby Government on this issue visit: https://www.pocklington-trust.org.uk/covid-19-support/
Street design Guidance for Local Authorities
In response to Covid-19, many local authorities are redesigning their streets to accommodate more pedestrians and cyclists. In partnership with Guide Dogs, RNIB and Visionary, Thomas Pocklington Trust have developed guidance for local authorities to ensure designs are inclusive and reflect the needs of blind and partially sighted people.
The guidance outlines the importance of communication with visually impaired people on the changes and their reliance on physical cues such as kerbs, tactile paving and controlled crossings to navigate safely.
Please Give me space: social distancing cards or badges
The Cabinet Office have produced cards or badges that you can show members of the public, if you have difficulties or concerns in maintaining social distancing. use them to signal to others around you that they should pay attention and give you space. You can print the cards/badges or download them straight to your phone.
Priority Supermarket delivery slots now available for blind shoppers
After months of campaigning by RNIB, Guide Dogs, Visionary and Thomas Pocklington trust, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has secured online shopping slots from a number of major supermarkets for people whose independence has been challenged by the lockdown. This includes those with a visual impairment.
If you are blind and partially sighted, live in England, and have no local help from family or friends, you can now call the RNIB Helpline on 03031239999 to be referred for a priority slot.
As Lockdowns begin to ease, blind and partially sighted people face a growing list of social distancing challenges. Our #DistancingBlind campaign is raising awareness of the issues and providing guidance to local businesses.
Access to Work
Access to Work has made a number of changes as a result of Covid-19. These include:
- Accepting payment claimed forms up-to-nine months from the date claimed
- Accepting email claim forms from customers who request this as a reasonable adjustment
- Extending Support worker awards that are coming to an end by six months
Work is also being done on implementing an online portal to submit payment claims.
Do you need help from an NHS volunteer?
If you are currently not supported and need some help with shopping, a prescription collection or a friendly chat then NHS Volunteer Responders are ready to help.
Together with other Sight loss sector organisations, Thomas Pocklington Trust is lobbying the Prime Minister’s Office, highlighting the inaccessible government updates on coronavirus. The Government has consistently been sharing vital public health information and other updates in a way that excludes people with sensory or complex disabilities, despite reminders from many disability organisations.
Thomas Pocklington Trust is delighted to report that following the joint letter to the PM linked above, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson MP, has appointed Claire Pimm, Director of National Resilience Communications at the Cabinet Office, as senior lead for accessible information.
The Cabinet Office has also reissued guidance to all Government Departments reminding them of their duties under the Equality Act that “reasonable adjustments” are made to ensure communications are accessible.
The group has created and shared with Government a checklist of simple steps that should be taken to ensure communications are accessible.
Your questions answered
Blind and partially sighted people have been contacting us with a range of questions related to COVID-19. We’ve come together with other sight loss sector organisations to share these FAQs which will be frequently updated:
We have a pulled together an outline on what each of the national sight loss charities are doing during the pandemic with links to their websites and how to get in touch. You can download this here:
Guidance for self-employed individuals
Many blind and partially sighted people are self-employed and are currently being adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This short guide outlines the support the government has put in place and some tips, you might find helpful, on managing finances.
Handy apps during COVID-19
Technology is so important for enabling blind and partially sighted people to live the life they want to lead, TPT has created a list of accessible apps and solutions for greater independence, support, communication and entertainment for blind and partially sighted people.
Can you help?
The NHS is looking for volunteers in a number of roles. This includes collecting and delivering shopping, medication or other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating; providing transport home for patients who are medically fit for discharge from hospital; transporting equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites or simply checking in via telephone with people who are self isolating. If you think you could help, register here: www.goodsamapp.org/NHS