Partially sighted woman 'abused' for social distancing breaches

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image captionLinda Johnson said the idea of visiting the shops now fills her with anxiety

A partially sighted woman is in fear of leaving her house after receiving abuse for accidentally breaching social distancing guidelines.

Linda Johnson says she has been pushed and faced "unpleasant language" while shopping in Broadstairs, Kent.

Her guide dog is not trained in social distancing and does not recognise queues of people.

Charities urged shoppers to be more "understanding" of the challenges for people with vision loss.

Clive Wood, from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, said: "If it's a white-cane user or if it's somebody with a guide dog, they are going to have the same problems: they are not going to be able to socially distance and they are not going to understand there might be a queue there."

'Frightening'

Ms Johnson said she has been left feeling anxious and now has to "psyche" herself up before leaving home.

"It's frightening, it really is," she said. "Am I going to be faced with more abuse? Am I going to be pushed again?"

Queues outside shops are often a flashpoint for abuse, she said, because guide dogs are trained to take their handler directly to the door.

"They don't know that there's a queue," she said. "They will treat that queue as an obstacle and avoid it."

Ms Johnson, who has only very limited vision in one eye, said it is "impossible" for her to recognise if she was less than two metres from someone.

She appealed to people to "stop being nasty" and simply ask questions or politely inform her that there is a queue outside a shop.

Before the pandemic, Ms Johnson said she cherished her freedom and independence and looked forward to leaving the house with her dog and "best friend" Iggy by her side.

"Since the pandemic, that freedom and independence has been taken away," she added.

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