RNIB Scotland says the sector must brace itself - and prepare
Another nationwide lockdown during the winter months will hit some particularly hard - especially the elderly and socially isolated, RNIB Scotland has warned.
The 2020 Covid crisis has prompted a greater sense of social cohesion and solidarity, said director James Adams, but it also exposed and exacerbated some of the barriers that blind and partially sighted people still face.
Access to online shopping slots, a lack of essential health information in formats such as audio and braille, and confusion over whether social distancing allowed for blind and partially sighted people to still be guided added to the distress many felt.
Adams said: "The first lockdown came out of the blue when we had little real-life experience of managing a national emergency.
“But it is now more essential than ever that we learn the lessons and ensure no one falls through the safety net. Another period of enforced confinement during the winter months could hit some particularly hard.
"During the first lockdown, RNIB Scotland and other charities worked extremely hard to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable were met - at a time when even the most able in society were thrown by the suddenness and uncertainty the crisis had created.
"We negotiated set online shopping slots for people with sight loss, worked with public bodies to ensure the often vital information they put out was available in formats accessible to everyone, and clarified the rules on guiding people with a visual impairment.
"These gains must be reinforced if we are returning to another nationwide lockdown."
Currently, around 178,000 people are living in Scotland with significant sight loss. Although most are over the age of 60, around 3,500 children and young people also have a visual impairment.
The RNIB Helpline remains available on 0303 123 9999 and information continues to be broadcast on RNIB's Connect Radio station. The RNIB Talking Book library posts and downloads thousands of titles in audio and other formats.
Social and leisure groups set up by RNIB Scotland will continue to meet by phone over the festive period, while the charity's resource centre, selling aids and equipment, remains open for orders online.
Its Eye Clinic Liaison Officer service offers practical advice and reassurance to people coming to terms with sight loss, while support in using new technology is also available, and help and information on welfare benefits.