Conquering COVID-19 with Vision Loss

Northeast Sight Services

COVID-19 continues to evolve. So while we won’t have all of the answers right now, Northeast Sight Services knows how capable our clients are and how well they adapt. We are developing innovative solutions and creative alternatives to help those with vision loss navigate and conquer life with the ever changing COVID-19 restrictions and safety measures.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Long lines curving around buildings, markers every six feet, one-way arrows painted on floors. These and other safety steps have become part of everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to ensure we all keep our distance. While intended to keep us safe, such measures are designed for people who can see them.

How can you stay an appropriate distance away from people and signal to them to do the same?

Your best bet will be to start bringing a white mobility cane with you in public. The white cane tells people around you that you have vision loss, so hopefully they’ll get the message that it is their responsibility not to approach within 6ft of you.

If you have been trained on a cane- great! Start bringing it with you everywhere, no matter your level of vision or comfort level of the place you are visiting. You may have noticed that wearing a mask cuts down on your field of vision, especially things below you, so using a cane will also keep you safer from steps and curbs.

If you have not been trained on a cane and don’t have one- you still have an option! You can buy an Identification Cane or ID cane for short. This type of cane is meant to signal to those around you that you have vision loss, all you have to do is hold it in front of you. This cane is super light and portable, but you cannot use it to tap the ground like a traditional cane. If you’d like to order one, please contact Kristen at 570-693-3555 x222.

SIGHTED GUIDE

Now that shops and stores open, many visually impaired individuals who rely on sighted guide, might not feel comfortable asking for assistance from store employees.

You may typically ask for shopping assistance when out, but with social distancing still in place, holding onto someone’s arm may not be a safe option. You can try a couple different options:

If you like with someone, you can bring them as a guide.

If you live alone, you can still try asking for shopping assistance but put space in between you and the employee by holding onto a shopping cart and letting them hold onto the far end and do the steering as you go through the store. You can also ask for verbal directions instead of having them physically lead you.

If this is still too close for you, try using a remote set of eyes. Stores like Wegman’s and Target have partnered with Aira, an app that provides guided shopping assistance through a trained person looking through your phone’s camera and giving you voice guidance. Just ask for access to the app at the store’s customer service desk.

If you have low vision and are not in a store that offers Aira, there is always video calling to a family member or friend who can look through the phone’s camera and lead you to the aisle or store section you’re looking for.

SOCIAL ISOLATION

This pandemic could have detrimental consequences for the elderly and those with disabilities and chronic conditions due to the isolation of social distancing. Many of whom do not have the technology to use delivery apps, FaceTime with friends, etc. During this time it is even more vital to keep in contact with those who may be feeling even more isolated during this time.

I’m really starting to feeling isolated at home, what can I do?

If you’re looking for some social support from others with vision loss, try calling in to one of our virtual programs! We have some really great programs being offered guided chair yoga, support groups, book club, and even trivia nights.

We also need to remember to be kind to one another and to ourselves. Uncertain times can bring out the worst or best in us. We may not be able to be the best versions of ourselves all the time, everyday, especially now. But we can choose compassion and kindness over anger and frustration.

If you feel you may need to speak with a mental health professional to help you through these trying times, call 211 and they can help connect you with the right person.

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