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Date posted: 21st January 2022
The relaxation of restrictions from the government’s ‘Plan B’ means people are no longer advised to work from home and face coverings will no longer be required in classrooms for both staff and pupils. Testing remains a vital tool in controlling the spread of Covid-19 which is why we are working with partners and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to make tests as accessible as possible for blind and partially sighted people.
Mike Bell, National Public Affairs Lead at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “We know many blind and partially sighted people have struggled with the accessibility of Covid-19 tests since they were first introduced in response to the pandemic in 2020.
“We have worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and other sight loss organisations, including Visionary, Macular Society and RNIB, and to make Covid-19 testing as accessible as possible for blind and partially sighted people.
“We have been part of a joint working group looking at this since May 2020 and have been involved in regular meetings, sometimes even daily, throughout the pandemic to continue to highlight the needs of blind and partially sighted people.”
Read more on Covid-19 support including guidance on sighted guiding and the launch of free live video assistance to any UK citizen via the Be My Eyes app for at-home COVID tests
Mike said: “Our initial focus was on PCR tests. And as a result of our work, PCR test kits can be delivered to your door, and you can get braille, audio or large print instructions. You can also have a live video call with specially trained NHS Test and Trace staff to help you register and take a home coronavirus test. We have also secured improvements to the packaging of the PCR tests to make it easier for a blind or partially sighted person to complete the test independently.”
This work was delivered, in part, thanks to the support of the volunteers from Sight Loss Councils who fed in vital intelligence from around the country about the accessibility of testing and participated in trials and tests of both new packaging and video assistance support.
The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed that the Be My Eyes video assistance can be used with at-home Lateral Flow Tests ( LFT) as well as PCR tests – something we have been campaigning for.
Mike said: “For many blind and partially sighted people working from home, returning to workplaces or accessing leisure and health services, getting regular tests has been vital.”