Northampton

Coronavirus: Blind people 'put off exercise by judgemental attitudes'

Hugh Spence
Image caption Hugh Spence said he had not left his home for four weeks since lockdown began

A blind man says "judgemental" attitudes are deterring visually-impaired people from daily exercise.

Hugh Spence said people with even partial sight loss, which can make depth perception difficult, were afraid of breaking social distancing rules.

Those with guide dogs were also constrained as the animals were not trained to the new guidelines, he said.

"We don't know if we are two metres (6ft) away, so it's not safe," said the 28-year-old from Northampton.

"A lot of sighted people are very judgemental. They are worried about people getting too close to them," said Mr Spence, who works for Northamptonshire Association for the Blind (NAB).

"That's making lots of visually impaired people very concerned."

A group of sight-loss charities have also been calling on the government to classify blind and partially sighted people as a vulnerable group, making them eligible for priority lists for delivery slots.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption With guide dogs unable to follow social distancing guidelines, public exercise can be difficult

Despite being a "very active person" normally, Mr Spence said he had not left his house for four weeks.

The online exercise classes many sighted people have turned to during lockdown are unsuitable for the visually impaired as they lack precise audio instructions.

As a result, NAB has begun running online dance classes, in which the steps are described in detail, and the first session was watched by nearly 300 people.

"We've been in talks with other providers to try to get them to add descriptions so visually-impaired people can follow," Mr Spence said.

NAB has organised pub quizzes for its members to socialise and break down the isolation that Mr Spence says many visually impaired people feel even in normal circumstances.

It has also launched a telephone befriending service.

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