RNIB Scotland has adapted services to continue to support people with sight loss during the pandemic.
The effects of social distancing measures and lockdown have had a particularly big impact on people with a visual impairment. To try to minimise the effects coronavirus has had on social interaction, over the last seven weeks RNIB Scotland have been running an adapted approach to our community support offer. Overnight we moved from running dozens of face-to-face groups to looking for a way to maintain opportunities for blind and partially sighted people to connect whilst being socially distanced, and we are also making contact with as many blind & partially sighted people as we can through our own organisation, other charities in the sector and working with councils.
Pre-lockdown we were aware that people with a visual impairment can face more barriers to connecting with others, sometimes leading to social isolation and a negative impact on emotional wellbeing. These include factors from being unable to access transport to travel outside their neighbourhood, to the confidence to move about independently being dented by bad experiences, to being unable to access technology or activities.
To support social interaction in an accessible and socially distanced way our groups, where possible, have been transitioned into telephone groups. This includes everything from football chat on a Saturday morning to a choir on a Thursday evening, and recipe sharing. There is scope for anyone with a visual impairment to access these groups, including people who are unable to access video call apps, who don’t have smart phones or laptops, or who don’t have the contact details of the people who they’d usually see weekly. People can call into the groups or be called into the calls if they can’t access the dialling pad on their phone.
We have had a great take up from blind and partially sighted people across Scotland with currently over 20 weekly groups organised by our Community Connection Co-ordinators.
One of RNIB’s key charitable offers is access to our free Talking Books service from our library of over 31,000 books in a full range of accessible formats, which can help ease social isolation. This service can be accessed through RNIB’s helpline 0303 123 9999 which is still fully operational and provides a range of services and support for blind & partially sighted people.
Almost all of us have been using technology more over the past few weeks to keep in touch with friends, find latest updates relating to coronavirus and keep entertained. To support blind and partially sighted people who may want to access technology they haven’t used before, we also run the Technology for Life service. Our expert technology advisers can guide people through how to enable accessibility features on their phone, point them to VI apps they may want to use and answer any queries so that they can get the most out of their devices during lockdown.
RNIB Scotland will continue to support blind and partially sighted people during the coronavirus pandemic, and after, to live independently, stay in touch with the people who matter to them and take advantage of technology.
If you’re interested in joining one of the telephone groups, please contact Daniel Meikle at Daniel.Meikle@rnib.org.uk.
For all other queries and for technology support, call our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 5pm Saturday.
This Community in Action piece was provided by RNIB Scotland.