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Advice to people with sight loss regarding safe guiding, social distancing and dealing with surfaces.

1.      How can I be guided safely? 
2.      How do I practice safe social distancing?
3.      Am I more at risk as I need to touch more surfaces if I am out and about to help me navigate (and what can I do about this)?

How can I be guided safely during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic?

If you need to go out for a walk or to access goods, you can be guided by a member of your household. There are a series of instructional videos on the Guide Dogs website covering the essentials of how to guide, that members of your household may find helpful. 

Although it is safest to avoid getting closer than 2m to another person outside of your household, where a person relies on a guide to be able to get around, they may make physical contact to guide within the 2m distance, provided neither the guide nor the person needing the guide has any symptoms of COVID-19. 

Guiding should not be undertaken if either the visually impaired individual or guide has any symptoms, nor if either household from which they come has symptomatic household members. If the person needing the guide has symptoms they will need to stay at home and self-isolate for at least 10 days, or if someone in their household has symptoms, they will need to stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days, so they should not need the guide in that time. 

Guiding should also not be undertaken if either the visually impaired individual or the guide has been told by the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Prevent team that they are a contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19: in these circumstances the individual must self-isolate and adhere to the advice provided by the team. 

Correct guiding is paramount. Correct guiding, for example, does not involve hand to hand contact. Guiding by people who are unfamiliar with guiding a visual impaired individual could lead to increased risk, such as trips/falls.

If an individual with sight loss does not have a household member who is able to safely guide them whilst out and about on essential journeys, they could contact a local voluntary society to enquire if there is a trained volunteer who can assist them for essential journeys. There are details of societies and community support at

No PPE is recommended for the role of guide, as guiding should not be carried out where there is suspicion of COVID-19 infection. However, good hand hygiene must be observed. If use of public transport is to be undertaken as part of the journey, then currently, in Wales, a face covering will need to be worn for that element of the journey.

In Wales, any two households can now join together to form an extended household. Full details can be found on the website.

How do I practice social distancing?

If you are unable to gauge whether you are maintaining the recommended distance from someone outside of your home environment, you may want to implement the following suggestions:

If you are concerned about going out because of social distancing you can download a 'Please give me space' social distancing card or badge from GOV.UK. The badge is designed to notify those around you that you may have difficulties maintaining social distancing. The badge/card is printed with 'Please give me space. Be kind. Thank you for understanding.' and is available in yellow type on a black background or black type on a white background.

Am I more at risk as I need to touch more surfaces if I am out and about to help me navigate (and what can I do about this)?

You should seek support and request assistance in advance of journeys outside of the house where possible e.g. if attending a hospital appointment. If a person with sight loss is being guided correctly, then the need to frequently touch surfaces to aid navigation is minimised.

The risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the outdoor environment is likely to be lower than within an enclosed setting.

To reduce the risk of infection whilst out-and-about:

Routine disinfection of canes / dog harness / other aids from a COVID-19 perspective is not essential. However, if you have been in an enclosed setting, particularly a health or social care setting, and your cane/aid has had prolonged contact with a surface e.g. countertop in that setting, then clean the aid with your usual household cleaner upon your return home and wash your hands afterwards.

(Text derived from SightAdviceFAQ and Public Health Wales)


This page is being maintained by Richard Bowers: Please send updates and corrections to him.