Staffordshire charity highlights social distance challenges faced by blind people

A charity that supports people in North Staffofrdshire who are blind or partially sighted say social distancing rules present difficult challenges for them.

Staffordshire Sight Loss has had to change the services it provides during lockdown,  including advice and support over the phone, video social groups, virtual exercise classes and a new telephone befriending service. 

Service Manager Suzanne Roberts said: "Lots of people are feeling more isolated as a result of the lockdown.

"You also have the additional challenges of social distancing, when you can't tell how far away someone is when you have lost your sight.

"People who have guide dogs, for example, they are trained to find doors to the supermarket - not end of queues at the supermarket.

"If you are struggling to see how far away people are, then social distancing can be pretty impossible for a lot of people, and that causes them anxiety about going out at all. 

"People are contacting us about different things than they were before."

The charity have been able to adapt their services, in part thanks to funding and support from the National Lottery.

It was awarded £140,000 in February, shortly before lockdown.

Staffordshire Sight Loss had aimed to use the money to launch a range of new face to face services over the summer including Community Hubs, help with equipment and technology, and peer support groups. 

Despite the setback of being unable to deliver these services now due to the pandemic, the charity is continuing to help people remotely.

Suzanne said: “Our services aim to help people to build confidence, increase independence and reduce social isolation following sight loss and this is even more relevant as we come out of lockdown.

“We set the charity up because the community told us that they needed face to face, community based services and we are very hopeful that at some point in the future we will be able to provide these.

"But in the meantime we want to let people know that we are still here if they need us.

"The Lottery grant is a huge achievement for us as a small charity and the National Lottery have been very supportive in allowing us to adapt delivery of the project so that we can continue to support the community during these difficult times”

Chair, Andrea Scott who is a mum and guide dog user from Stoke-on-Trent said “I lost my sight 10 years ago and I only wish this charity had existed then.

"It is so invaluable to be able to speak to other people who understand when you lose your sight and one of the things that we are passionate about as a charity is connecting people with others through our groups and telephone befriending service”

To contact Staffordshire Sight Loss Association about accessing their services or to sign up for their free newsletter contact them on 07931327018, by email at info@staffssightloss.onmicrosoft.com, or via Facebook, or twitter @sightlossstaffs.

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