Blindness in the time of Coronavirus could be dangerous for some, especially if they live in a densely populated country like India. What makes it even more of a risk is the fact that it won’t be always possible to avoid physical contact.
I’m not sure if this’s the case if you live in a Western country where independence is highly encouraged and people don’t so readily intervene in the activities of a blind person, but at the same time, without personal experiences, I wouldn’t like to make a general statement about life as a blind person in the West.
More to the point: practicing social distancing may not seem absolutely possible in all circumstances, especially if you navigate crowded areas and places where you need assistance.
Having observed the rise and spread of Coronavirus in the last two months, right from its point of origin in China, I thought these five precautions would help us blind folks stay safe.
*Gloves, masks and cane-holding
I write this and a few other instructions with the understanding that some blind folks in India, such as the folks in the banking and government sectors, don’t have the choice of working from home. This would also be the case for those in other countries more or less for the same reasons. So, read the instructions and see which ones apply to you.
In countries like India, where people could get close to us without prior warning or even hold our hands and elbows to walk us to the other side of a busy street, maintaining strict social distancing is a bit of a problem.
The best thing to avoid direct contact is to wear gloves, full sleeve shirts (or an additional layer of clothing that you could discard at home) and a face mask at all times. If someone wants to help you cross the road, offer them the tip of your white cane rather than your hand. Make sure you stay at least half a metre away, though the minimum prescribed distance is 6 feet or a metre.
Regular hand wash with sanitizer
I’ve observed many blind folks in India carry with them hand sanitizer bottles (including myself) to avoid the inconvenience of having to wash our hands in a crowded restaurant. Needless to say that your sanitizer bottle is a necessary and probably an important item in the bag that you carry. Those who have problems buying one –thanks to the panic-buying in India- can carry a bottle of liquid soap for a thorough rinsing of your palms and the face (if possible). Doing it frequently after returning home (or reaching office) will make sure your hands are clean.
If you are sitting at the counter in a bank –visited by so many people—it’s preferable to leave the mask on the face. Else, ensure you follow the hygiene procedures as frequently as possible to avoid any possibility of contracting Covid-19, the disease caused by Coronavirus.
Avoid anything that is tactile. Especially braille signage’s, step railings, the side walls inside the elevator, hang grips in buses/trains. Clean the hand grips and other (necessary) spots that you’re likely to touch with a piece of tissue paper (a box of which is also a necessary item in your bag along with the sanitizer bottle) before touching them. Or thoroughly clean your palms/hands with sanitizer/soap.
While we’re in the subject of handgrips, let’s not forget that the rinsing of hands should also include the back of the palm, the tips of all fingers, the thumbs and the hand up to the elbow.
Caution in ordering food
If your self-cook (as I do occasionally), you’ll be safe for all practical purposes (if you ensure you clean the box of oil or veggies delivered by the rep from the online grocery shop).
But if you depend on outside food, the experts I’ve listened to are saying it’s infinitely safe to order ready-to-eat stuff which you can microwave or heat up.
My personal experience is that it’s always better to depend on dry fruits, energy bars and other healthy food instead of always going for cooked food. We’re hoping that this’d be for a month or two (so you don’t have to fret over missing your favorite pasta or tandoori dish).
The best thing of all, of course, is to make sure you stay almost completely away from the outside world. If you have been planning a session of yoga all by yourself, or looking to write that blogpost, or wanting to record the YouTube/Insta video (like me), this’s your best time.
One thing I’m very sure is about the blind folks’ ability to cope with social isolation. Most of us have our audiobooks, YouTube videos, Podcasts and other social media to turn to in order to forget the fact of staying alone in a room.
If you’re a parent, you’ll probably like to socially isolate yourself, which is the best way to ensure your kids (especially babies and toddlers) are safe from Coronavirus. Remind yourself that this’d be for a few weeks only and it’s highly preferable to the isolation ward in a hospital where you’re unlikely to get personalized assistance (especially when the hospital is flooded with patients).
The Coronavirus pandemic is a challenge to humanity. We need to be smart to defeat the threat. The blind, and the disabled community at large, have faced greater challenges in our life journey. We could show the world that we’re better prepared to defeat this pandemic!
Three cheers to our willpower.