SUPPORTS for Irish people who are blind or visually impaired are available during the Covid-19 public health emergency, two prominent organisations have underlined this week.
The National Council for the Blind (NCBI) is operating its national helpline – 1850-33-43-33 – from Monday through Friday between 8am and 8pm. The line provides support in addition to practical and emotional advice while also outlining the level of services which may be available to those seeking help.
“We know this is a difficult time for everyone and the current guidance around social distancing can make people who are blind or visually impaired feel even more isolated from their community,” said NCBI Chief Executive Chris White.
“Our services are located in communities across Ireland and we will continue to offer tailored services to respond to each individual’s needs. These include practical and emotional support, rehabilitation services, library books in accessible formats and extensive technical support. We know our services are important to you at this time and we look forward to being there with you.”
Meanwhile, the Fighting Blindness charity has appealed to the general public to support and protect the most vulnerable in society – particularly those living with sight loss – during the Covid-19 emergency.
“Our service users are already experiencing high levels of anxiety and isolation due to their sight loss condition,” said Fighting Blindness CEO Kevin Whelan.
“Covid-19 is having a significant impact on them. Many fit within the older demographic too and are at greater risk. People living with sight loss navigate their entire lives through touch – now they don’t even have that.”
Over the past week or so, Fighting Blindness has transitioned its service from face-face to telephone counselling. Several peer support groups have also been moved onto a virtual platform.
Said Mr Whelan: “If you or somebody you know is living with sight loss, we encourage them to get in touch and connect with our peer support network – our members find the regular contact invaluable. We’re also sharing accessible information and resources from official bodies across our social media channels. If you’re concerned about yourself or someone living with sight loss, we encourage you to contact your local Garda station to sign up for their community outreach assistance.”
For more information, visit www.fightingblindness.ie/Covid-19
According to the 2016 Census, there are 54,810 people in the Republic of Ireland who are blind or visually impaired.