RNIB, British Blind Sport, Metro Blind Sport and Visionary issue guidance for leisure operators to support the return of blind and partially sighted people

In preparation for the reopening of leisure and sport facilities, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), British Blind Sport (BBS), Metro Blind Sport and Visionary have been working together to provide practical guidance to support the return of blind and partially sighted people to physical activity.

Research conducted by RNIB has found that two thirds (66 per cent) of blind and partially sighted people feel less independent now compared to before lockdown, demonstrating that social distancing measures, as brought in to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, are incredibly difficult for many people living with sight loss. In addition, inaccessible signage and fear about how the public will react to them if they are unable to follow the guidelines is causing increased stress and worry.

In response to these anxieties, RNIB, BBS, Metro and Visionary have created practical guidance which will help leisure operators and sport providers prepare for welcoming people back to physical activity, with the least amount of stress and difficulty. The guidance provides simple considerations that will make the return more straightforward and encourages the wider public to be mindful that sight loss may not always be obvious. The guidance demonstrates how to communicate clearly any changes to the facilities, particularly floor indicators or arrows, protective screens and temporary barriers. 

Marc Powell, Strategic Accessibility Lead at RNIB, said, “The findings from RNIB’s survey clearly show how much of a significant impact social distancing measures are having on the lives of blind and partially sighted people. As lockdown restrictions ease, we’ve increasingly heard from people with sight loss who are incredibly anxious about how to manage the situation. By creating clear, implementable guidance for leisure operators, we hope that some pressure and stress will be relieved for blind and partially sighted people, and that we will make the general public more aware of the challenges being faced by our community during this time.”

Alaina MacGregor, Chief Executive at BBS, said, “During the pandemic, blind and partially sighted people have been facing specific and unique challenges that have had an enormous impact on everyday independence. We have been interested to learn about the issues that people with sight loss have faced due to social distancing particularly visual cues in public places. To ensure that these issues are not repeated in the sporting environment, together we have created clear and easy to follow guidance that can be put into place for safe return to play. This guidance will make a huge difference to people who want to return to living independent lives and will offer additional assistance to the organisations who provide inclusive physical activity opportunities.”

Martin Symcox, Chief Executive at Metro Blind Sport, said, “People with sight loss have faced significant difficulties in observing social distancing since lockdown has been in place and again since it has been relaxed. Many individuals have told us that they are worried about returning to physical activity without any clear guidance in place and are unsure of the new barriers that they may face. We hope that we have made it simple and cost effective for our suggested measures to be implemented before facilities reopen and that this will give blind and partially sighted people the confidence and reassurance they need to return to the activities that they enjoy.”

Please click here to read the new Sport and Leisure Sector Guidance

For more information on this guidance, please contact Marc Powell on [email protected]