National Guidance to Support Safe Sighted Guiding
The Department for Health and Social Care, DHSC, has on the second September issued its guidance below, Supporting people outside of their home, assisting people who may have had problems going out on their own while maintaining social distancing:
This General guidance applies to England only and outlines how the Coronavirus, COVID-19, transmission risk can be minimised when support is provided so that people can visit shops, socialise or exercise safely. The guidance states that where you need support from someone Who isn’t in your household or support bubble and is not your normal carer, you and the person providing the support should, where possible, keep 1 m away from each other, taking additional precautions:
- Keeping any interactions of closer than 2 metres distance to as short a time as possible.
- Trying to avoid face to face contact with the person supporting you. Side by side contact is preferable and if face to face contact is needed, this should be for as short a time as possible.
- Wearing a face covering unless you are unable to or exempt from wearing one, if you’re going to be supported indoors or get close contact support for extended periods indoors or outdoors.
You may be part of a larger gathering but the same person, or people if you need support from more than one person at a time, should support you at all times. The guidance also states you may receive support from voluntary organisations or when accessing businesses such as larger shops, train stations or a hospital clinic, where the person providing the support may be helping multiple people in a day. When asking for support, you should set out what support you need and provide your name & contact details.
RNIB has also just published more detailed joint policy guidance on sighted guiding assistance for VIPs, in partnership with Guide Dogs & TPT
This is based on the DHSC guidance above, allowing for sighted guiding support from family or friends not in your household or support bubble and by volunteers or staff from organisations such as supermarkets, transport hubs and hospitals.
Sighted guiding ordinarily involves the person being guided keeping light contact with a guider’s elbow, standing alongside and slightly behind to the left or right, depending on personal preference.
The RNIB policy lead I’ve been liaising with tells me they’ve tried with a few people and if you’re measuring head to head, you should be able to keep 1 m or so apart from when guiding using the elbow.
Although guiding has a number of factors that make it a little safer in any event, you’re usually outdoors and moving and side to side, rather than face to face, all of which help mitigate the risk. At the same time, they’re also aware that you’re likely to be involved for more than 15 minutes, which adds to the risk somewhat.
They’ve recommended the additional mitigations, particularly with people outside your household or support bubble, of wearing a face covering, good hand and respiratory hygiene as well as planning journeys to reduce the risks as far as is practical.
For people who were clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, current government guidance is that they are able to be supported to leave their house but these people are reminded to be scrupulous in following the guidance, given their vulnerability.
As with all of this, this is subject to changes in regulations, so if there is a local lockdown people will have to observe any new restrictions until they are lifted.