Calls for more shopping help for the blind during lockdown

Siobhan Meade is totally blind and a disability rights campaigner Picture: Submitted

Siobhan Meade is totally blind and a disability rights campaigner Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

Help for the blind and visually impaired during the coronavirus lockdown is being called for, as shopping for essential supplies becomes ever more challenging.

While supermarket chains are offering priority access to online shopping to the 1.5 million people classed as high risk during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is concerned that is inhibiting its service users.

An online petition from the RNIB calling for businesses to do more to help the blind has attracted over 20,000 signatures, with disability rights campaigner Siobhan Mead backing the attempts.

“Trying to do online shopping at the moment is an absolute joke,” said Ms Meade, who was a long-time columnist for the Great Yarmouth Mercury while living in Gorleston.

“People are going without the bare essentials, firstly because they can’t get to a supermarket, especially if they are self-isolating. Secondly because it might be a challenge for someone who has recently lost their sight and might not have the confidence to get out and thirdly if you’re not able to use technology. Not everybody is tech-savvy.”

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NHS Digital data shows that 5,005 people in Norfolk were registered as being blind or partially sighted in March 2017 - the latest figures available - and Ms Meade, 36, has said shopping at a supermarket is particularly challenging at the moment.

“The majority of people are great but some people just want to rush and get the toilet roll before others get there,” explained the journalist, who is now based in London.

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“The positive out of all of this is that I’ve found other ways to deal with that, by getting a bit of string and having that bit of distance, so that the shop assistant is able to guide me, we’ve got that connection but we’re still maintaining those guidelines.”

There are around 300,000 people registered as blind or partially sighted in England and, in response to the RNIB petition the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed they are “speaking to food retailers, delivery organisations and volunteer groups” to get priority for those who are not considered clinically vulnerable to Covid-19 but still need help to gather essential supplies.

- Ms Mead has a YouTube channel where she discusses issues for the blind and visually impaired, which can be found at

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- Keep up to date with community efforts during the pandemic in our Norfolk and Waveney Here to Help group on Facebook

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