Top tips for helping a visually impaired person when they visit your venue

We are acutely aware that the necessary measures that have had to be put in place due to Covid-19 create unique issues for people living with a visual impairment.
We are keen to work with businesses and venues to offer guidance and top tips on how they can take into consideration the needs of the sight loss community, so that individuals feel safe and confident as we all adjust to a new way of living.

Introduction to our top tips

Even before the current pandemic situation, we have tried to raise awareness of the specific needs of our service users in the wider community; we already shared guidance with shops and restaurants across the North West on how to communicate with their blind and partially sighted customers, and offered bespoke training on Visual Impairment Awareness courses.

With many of the Covid-19 measures being put into place acting as visual clues to maintain social distancing, we recognise that our specific community are going to need some additional support. We hope as many businesses as possible are made aware of these top tips, as these simple measures can go a long way to making the customer/visitor feel welcome and safe.

Sign on the pavement with instructions for social distancing

Tip 1 – Saying hello, introducing yourself and offering help.

Let people know you are there, and from that point on they should not feel alone in a strange environment. If you are wearing a mask, it may be difficult for people with low vision to recognise you, and your voice may sound a little different too – so don’t assume your regular visitors will recognise you.

Tip 2 – Telling them what has changed at your venue.

You may have introduced a one-way system or cashless payments. You may have added some temporary barriers, which may not sound like barriers to a long cane user.

Tip 3 – Asking them what help they want.

This will save you overdoing it – you may be surprised at how little help some people need, and just enough often solves the problem.

Tip 4 – Giving accessible information.

Letting people know about the changes may fill in the gaps and make your venue accessible. Talk about your venue, give people a feel for the new way of working. If you are telling people about this with a poster, think about people who may not be able to read the print.

Tip 5 – Guiding them to where they need to go.

If they need guiding think how you can do this safely – for example, they may be able to follow your voice, if it is safe to do so. You could use the clock system for directional instructions, if it is safe to do so – imagine a clockface and the individual is in the middle, so straight ahead is 12 o’clock, forward to the right is 2 o’clock, on the right would be 3 o’clock, etc.

If you have a one-person rule, you may need to allow the individual to come in with a sighted guide

Tip 6 – Remember not all people who have a visual impairment carry a white cane.

You may not spot that they have a visual impairment and wonder about proof. Really though, if someone says they have a visual impairment, why would we be checking in this situation? Take their word for it; some people find it difficult to let people know at the best of times.

Tip 7 – Try and work out how you can help people socially distance.

It takes a bit longer to do things like shopping when you have low or no vision. You may want to think about giving more time between customers. And remember that guide dogs are trained to guide, not to socially distance.

Tip 8 – Think about where you seat people (if applicable).

You may have a waiting area, so let people know how it works. Seat people with an easy to navigate route and tell them you will come over when it is time for them to move along.

Tip 9 – Offer more help.

It is worth checking with the person that they are getting on OK as they may be finding it difficult to navigate, or it may be getting stressful. Please remember, we want visually impaired people to feel safe and confident.

Tip 10 – Giving the person time to leave.

Do not rush the person out, let them get ready to leave. Give the person time to put items in their bag and remain calm. Remember they are leaving your venue to work it all out again in the next location!

Some things to think about...

As well as our top tips, you should also consider:

  • Hazard tape, floor stickers, signage, bollard covers, and arrows are visual clues. These have no tactile feedback, so do not expect people with a visual impairment to be able to follow them.
  • Snake queuing systems are noisy and disorientating – the problem may start before the person even enters your venue.

We offer a range of services to businesses including workforce training, orientation for visually impaired members of staff, consultation service, as well as specific Covid-19 support.  Please get in touch with us on 0300 222 5555 or email info@henshaws.org.uk to find out more.

Image shows a Boots pharmacy with a social distancing queue out the front door.

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