The RNIB is calling on the government to take action to help blind and partially-sighted people cope with some of the challenges posed by coronavirus.
The charity is urging the government to work with supermarkets to improve access for people with sight loss to online shopping. It has also launched a petition to back its campaign by calling on the Secretary State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to address the issue.
Glen and Rowan Graham, who live in Devon, are both blind and Rowan is self-isolating because of underlying health conditions.
She told the BBC: “The trouble is a blind person can’t navigate a supermarket, they can’t go and find the items they want.
“Long term it’s quite frightening because how will people such as ourselves get shopping, how are you going to feed yourself, how are you going to feed your dogs, your cats? How are you going to do that?”
The RNIB says that people with vision impairments are struggling to safely access basic necessities like food from supermarkets because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Highlighting the petition, the charity said: “We’ve had an enormous number of queries from blind and partially-sighted people who have been struggling to properly access supermarkets, and unable to find online shopping slots.
“This is often because priority online shopping slots are being given to people classed as ‘vulnerable’, however the list being used to define this group is based on vulnerability to coronavirus, and doesn’t yet take other barriers to shopping or accessing services into account.
“However, social distancing is making it much harder for blind and partially-sighted people to shop because many people rely on a guide who might not be part of their household, and some stores are also changing their layout or queuing systems to encourage people to stay two metres apart.”
The RNIB is working with Guide Dogs, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Vision UK, and Visionary to raise this issue and its CEO, Matt Stringer, added his name to a letter to the Secretary of State, George Eustice MP.
But the statement added: “We haven’t seen any improvements and our team spent two hours on hold to one supermarket trying to access an online slot. Because of this we’ve launched a joint petition asking the Government and supermarkets to resolve this as soon as possible.
“RNIB are determined to support those who need us throughout the crisis in any way we can, and are working to make sure the criteria for these reserved slots are changed as soon as possible.”
For further information and to access the petition please visit: https://www.rnib.org.uk/campaigning/campaigning-news/petition-rnib-and-sight-loss-sector-call-better-supermarket-access-during-pandemic