Coming out of lockdown if you are visually impaired (Part 2)

In Part 2 of our 'Coming out of Lockdown' series, our Senior Rehab Officer Simon, who has low vision himself, gives his thoughts on how people with sight loss can prepare themselves for the 'new normal' in our towns and cities.

Introduction

As some of you may have seen and heard on our social media channels, I’ve recently been out and about in Manchester and my local area.

I have been working from home since March, not going anywhere on my own for months now.  So, after I wrote about coming out of lockdown, I decided to get on with the next step myself!

There are certain steps to this, I realised. I’ll have a go at explaining the things that worked for me – after all they may work for you too!

Simon holding long cane at Piccadilly station

Think

The first to do is think – where do you actually want to go? Well I had my mind made up for me; Mark from our Digital Team rang me and said, “Fancy a walk around Manchester”? I’d think about where, why and is it familiar? As I’ve said before this is not the best time to set off to some random new destination – why add to the stress?

You don’t have to have a reason to go, just think about a good place to start. It may be worth starting local and familiar, round the block or to the local shop.

Plan

Don’t just set off one morning and see what happens! Things have changed slightly so you need to know where you’re going, how and when.

If you are going to go with someone, make sure they have plenty of time to spare. I know we’re talking about independence here, but if you can get a bit of help why not? (it saves a lot of work!) I arranged to meet Mark in the afternoon – I tried to pick a dry day, an easy meeting place, and said I would keep in contact with my phone.

Organise

The next bit is to organise the outing, get all the ‘ducks in a row.’ It’s worth checking with your transport provider or taxi company about any changes – they may have changed some routes, timetables or may only be taking card payments.

I intended to use the Metrolink, checking out the travel guidance before I even set off. I like to know what’s going on before I travel. The policy on mask wearing is something I wanted to know, and I tried a mask at home before I set off.

Information

It’s a good idea to find out as much as you can before you set off.  Ask around – “what’s it like in town, and what’s changed?”

I avoided too much information from the news, it just sounded like a massive party was going on with no social distancing. The facts are usually a little calmer and more useful.

We decided to make some short videos on our travels, they are the things I needed to know, so I could travel independently. They may help you find out what’s going on, even if they just put your mind at rest, it’s not much different out there.  These videos will be featured in our next blog!

It’s worth remembering that some areas are also allowing restaurants and bars to use the pavement, so try and find out if this will affect your journey.

Going out

It’s worth leaving plenty of time to travel, there is no point rushing on the first time out. We all know what rushing does – something random happens putting a big dent in our confidence. At the end of the day, we’ve been in for weeks, another day may be worth waiting to be safe and sure.

I always make sure I’ve got enough taxi money; I like to know I can get home whatever happens to public transport.

Take it all in

It’s worth taking your time, take it all in, and maybe even make some notes. This is a good time to go back and try it again, get it straight in your mind if you feel it is of benefit.

If you are with someone, don’t just say “OK”, I always say, “Can we just go back and do that again?” Think about what’s different on your route, as that’s the information we need. I’m not too concerned about the stuff that doesn’t affect me, I’ve enough to remember already!

Let people know

Yes, I’m back to this again.  It’s a good time to let people know you have a visual impairment, so use your cane, guide dog, or sight guide and make it obvious. If nothing else it’s time to use a symbol cane, as it will help let others know.

Tell people that you have a visual impairment, as most are willing to help. After all it’s usually just a bit of help that makes sense of what’s going on – try it!

Getting home

Don’t leave it too late, and be home in good time. I find it a challenge at the best of times, so I’d avoid alcohol if you drink.

There may be some subtle changes on the way home. I would definitely check public transport home; they may have different routes and departure stations at different times of day. One thing to bear in mind with transport, it’s not back to full service yet since lockdown – don’t get caught out by the last train times, check!

Henshaws is here to support you

What can you do if you’re struggling for ideas to help you move forward from the lockdown? Why not give Henshaws a call on 0300 222 5555, or we’ve loads of ideas in our Knowledge Village (such as this video about using the symbol cane).

If you are local to Greater Manchester we have a team of Enablement Officers that can offer practical help. They will have ideas and solutions to your problems, or will know someone who does! Why not give us a call for a friendly chat, and maybe even make a plan. You may feel like joining one of our Living Well With Sight Loss meetings or we have peer support groups and can offer counselling too.

Plus, we can offer specialist support to help you access print, be it eccentric viewing techniques, how to use a magnifier correctly, lighting and contrast. If you wished you’d been able to use more tech during this lockdown, how about learning some new tech skills. Our Digital Team can work with you to find the best solution – it’s a great way to increase your independence.

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Sarah
Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.