Many people want to provide support to those who are vulnerable at this time. This community spirit is fantastic and can be a great help but it is important to remember a few simple things when assisting those with certain disabilities such as blindness.

Blind and partially sighted people often have a system in place to help them with tasks like sorting, storing and cooking food. If you are helping someone with their shopping or other related tasks, following their existing system as much as possible will help them during this difficult time. The guidance below will be useful when you are helping someone who has sight loss who cannot get their own shopping.

Only help if you are completely well yourself and have not been in contact with someone who has symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) during the last 14 days.

Talk to the person you are going to help

If at all possible, talk to the person you are going to help to find out key information about their shopping preferences and systems they have in place to sort/label food. Questions to ask include:

  • Do they have any allergies or dietary requirements?
  • Do they want a particular brand or are they happy for substitutes?
  • Would they prefer microwave meals or other ready meals?
  • Would they prefer vegetables or fruit that is pre chopped to make cooking easier?
  • Do they have a system for sorting and labelling food that they need your help with e.g.
  • Talking tin lids– used to record the content of the tin
  • Pen Friend (system to record contents on a sticky dot attached to the food)
  • Elastic band system e.g. 1 band for peas, 2 for beans, 3 for fruit etc.
  • Writing the contents or cooking instructions in large black felt tip on a sticky label
  • Buying ready meals that have the same cooking time and temperature

Sorting or labelling food

If you’re helping with any those tasks please make sure you follow the guidance below.

  • Label the food before delivering it to the blind or partially sighted person
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling the packaging
  • Clean any devices you use such as a talking tin lid or pen friend thoroughly with antibacterial wipes before and after handling.

Government advice is that volunteers or those helping with shopping should not enter the person’s home. This is to reduce the risk of infection. For many people however, they will need you to explain the content of any shopping and perhaps cooking instructions. To do this safely:

  • Speak to the person by telephone to explain what shopping has been purchased and left for them.
  • If this is not possible, then please ensure you stand outside, at least 2 meters/6 feet away from the person when explaining the contents of shopping.
  • If there is no other option, the person requests that you enter the home and you are happy to do so, e.g. to unpack shopping, ask them to open the door themselves and move into another room while you are in the home. Please wipe down any surfaces you touch with antibacterial wipes before leaving.

Further information

According to the NHS there are almost 2 million people with visual impairment in the UK and with social distancing measures in place due to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, shopping has become almost impossible for someone with sight loss.

Blind Veterans UK is offering a short and concise visual impairment online training course for business, which has been created by accredited Rehabilitation Officers for Visual Impairment Officers. The course will not only help your organisation understand the issues faced by a person who is blind, but will also address the challenges of safely accessing basic necessities.

Learn more about our visual impairment online course.

Government advice on helping others: Helping others.