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Perth campaigner says lack of clarity over Covid-19 measures is leaving blind people unable to shop safely

Jon Attenborough in Perth city centre
Jon Attenborough in Perth city centre

A Perth disability campaigner fears a lack of clarity over coronavirus restrictions in shops are making it extremely difficult for blind people to  visit stores safely.

Jon Attenborough, who can only see shapes and colours, feels he in no longer able to go shopping on the high street by himself due to the visual nature of the majority of restrictions implemented by stores.

The campaigner has called for shops to adopt a uniform approach to the guidelines to help people with impaired visibility safely navigate stores on their own.

“Going into shops was difficult before the restrictions were put in place but with some shops there’s now queues you don’t know about or a one-way system and it’s very difficult to know which way to go.

“It can be very difficult to find a member of staff to show you even small things like hand sanitizer.

“Most of the restrictions are quite visual and if you can’t see them that’s quite a big problem when you are on your own.

“If I need to nip out to get some shopping I don’t want to have to wait for my brother to come, I want to do it in my own time.”

Jon fears that his ability to go out on his own accord for even basic essentials is being taken away.

He said: “There needs to be more conformity. If in every shop it had to be one way then that would definitely make it safer – but they’ve all done their own thing.”

The Euan’s Guide ambassador suggested that shops could invest in apps like Welcome by Neatebox which allows users to alert shops that they will be visiting their store.

Jon has already used the app in a number of places like Edinburgh Airport.

Visibility Scotland agreed with Jon that a number of changes to the high street brought on by the pandemic have made it difficult for blind and partially sighted people.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “There are many navigational challenges that face someone with sight loss in the town centre.

“It is very difficult to socially distance if you can’t see who is approaching and from where.  Locating hand sanitiser, reading Covid-19 hazard signs are to name but a few of the challenges.

“When you are shopping, someone with sight loss will generally touch objects more frequently as they may need to hold the object closer to their face to identify what the object is and to see the instructions.

“Masks can cause a visual block for some if the  area of good vision if this the lower visual field.

“We have received reports of negative responses from members of the public when people do not wear a mask in public spaces.”

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