I grew up around visually impaired people, given that my mother is one of them. She lost most of her vision due to glaucoma when I was merely an infant. My father was not around at all, so she had to raise me on her own.
Despite my mother’s blindness, I never thought much about her disability. It was not because I was insensitive but because she did everything that a non-disabled person could do. My mother worked as an accountant, did all the grocery shopping at home, and even did all the household chores until I was old enough to help.
I only realized how challenging it must be to have a visual impairment when the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Here are a few issues that my mother and other visually impaired folks experience now:
You Cannot Ask For Help From Strangers
A lot of sight-impaired individuals get through the day with the help of people they may or may not know. Say, if someone sees that you have a tough time finding the door, they will guide you to it. If you cannot reach a product at the supermarket, they will put it in your cart. Often, you need not ask—those helpful strangers just do it.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, people have become aloof, especially when they are in a public place. Assuming you used to get assistance from random folks before asking, you may hardly find anyone willing to do it these days. No one feels like coming in contact with strangers, regardless if they have an impairment and genuinely need help.
You Cannot Touch Anything In Public
When there is not another soul to extend a helping hand, a blind person can typically get things done by using their sense of touch. Meaning to say, they tend to feel the walls to know the right direction or avoid bumping into it. That’s how they figure out how to use public transportation, climb up the stairs, or hit the correct elevator button.
Unfortunately, no one can touch any public property at the moment. The virus may be sticking to those walls and buttons, and you can contract COVID-19. Hence, things can be tricky from the moment you step out of the house even if you have a walking stick.
You Cannot Shop Online Easily
Yes, visually impaired folks can do online shopping. They typically have an app that reads the text on the screen, so they don’t need another set of eyes to read for them. Then, when the package comes, the driver or delivery personnel can help check the items and ensure that everything has arrived.
Still, this advancement has proven to be not too helpful during a crisis in which other people are panic buying. After all, it takes a while for the app to change whatever’s on-screen from text to speech. The delivery guys are also forbidden to come in close contact with the customers, so they cannot open the package for the blind. For that reason, the sight-impaired individuals have no choice but to either accept or reject the parcels with missing items.
My mother has lived through the challenges mentioned above because of this pandemic, and it saddens her to know that she needs to stay at home more often these days. It makes me feel sadder that the once-helpful folks no longer even want to greet you, but I understand that they only wish to prevent virus transmission. Alas, it may take many moons before things return to their natural state, and it’s safe for visually impaired people to go out by themselves again. All we can do is ask for assistance from a close relative or neighbor for now.