COVID-19 has changed how we interact. Canadians, including those who are blind or partially sighted, are practising physical distancing and staying home whenever possible to help prevent the spread of the virus.
In response to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendation that everyone keep a distance of at least two metres from others at all times, the CNIB Foundation is urging people to consider something very important: Canadians who are blind or partially sighted – especially those living alone – may need to rely on a sighted guide (a person who guides someone with sight loss) for urgent needs, including traveling safely to the grocery store, the pharmacy, their doctor’s office, the bank and back home.
When Canadians with sight loss urgently need a sighted guide and there's no one available in their household, both the person who is blind or partially sighted and the sighted guide should wear a mask and gloves.
On Tuesday, April 7, Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada, recommended the use of a mask when grocery shopping or riding transit, when physical distancing is not an option.
An unintended consequence of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendation is that Canadians with sight loss are being discriminated against, refused entry to businesses and cut off from doing essential errands in a way that works for them. Simply put, many Canadians with sight loss aren't being provided with the necessary accommodations that they have a right to.
The CNIB Foundation is urging Canadian businesses, government officials and police officers to be mindful of the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities during this pandemic – and practice empathy. Together, we'll create accessible, inclusive communities.
Diane Bergeron is president of CNIB Guide Dogs.