Push for inclusion and kindness for blind and vision-impaired during COVID-19

Tags Conditions Accessibility

Posted 5 months ago by Rebecca St Clair

The #BeThatPerson campaign gives the public an opportunity to understand how to best assist people who are blind or vision impaired as they navigate the community. (Source: iStock)
The #BeThatPerson campaign gives the public an opportunity to understand how to best assist people who are blind or vision impaired as they navigate the community. (Source: iStock)

COVID-19 has created a push for kindness online, and a new project has been launched by Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) and The Kindness Pandemic to spread kindness to people who are vision-impaired or blind and help them navigate the new normal.

The outbreak of COVID-19 presents unique challenges for everyone, but for people who are blind or vision impaired, it has created additional difficulties. 

Social distancing may be difficult because guide dogs and canes can’t measure the required 1.5 metres, see new markings on shop floors for queuing or read the signs about COVID-19 precautions. 

The #BeThatPerson campaign was launched to help people navigate those challenges.

The campaign is a collaboration between Blind Citizens Australia, the national representative organisation of people who are blind or vision impaired, and The Kindness Pandemic, a group founded to spread acts of kindness to people who are struggling with the consequences of COVID-19. 

The project aims to encourage community members to approach someone who is blind or vision impaired – to introduce themselves and ask if they can help.

It also calls on community members to use ‘Alt Text’ to describe images on social media so that people who are blind or vision impaired can have the image described to them.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Blind Citizens Australia, Emma Bennison, says, “We are excited to partner with The Kindness Pandemic on this campaign which is about helping people who are blind or vision impaired build confidence to get outside again as COVID-19 restrictions are lifting. 

“The #BeThatPerson campaign gives the public an opportunity to understand how to best assist people who are blind or vision impaired as they navigate the community during this time of physical distancing as well as highlighting small accessibility tweaks that can be made on social media to include us in the conversation.”

The campaign will be shared through the Kindness Pandemic Facebook group, which has grown rapidly to over 500,000 members within two weeks of being established. 

Founder and Director of the Kindness Pandemic, Dr Catherine Barrett says, “We were approached and asked if we could do something for people who are vision-impaired or blind and so we had a conversation, and in that conversion, I realised there were things that I had never considered, like what is it like for a person who is vision-impaired or blind to be out and about and be trying to socially distance, [and] do physical distancing. 

“All that stuff, really simple stuff, that we can do to make sure that we are inclusive of people who are vision-impaired or blind. So we said well, let’s do something, let's not just do a call out. 

“BCA has over 8,000 members, and what [BCA] is doing is encouraging members to come into the group and share their stories to show everybody else that kindness is actually pretty easy and can have really powerful effects.“

Dr Barrett says that the impact of the Kindness Pandemic alone has been massive and that although the #BeThatPerson is in its early stages, it should still have a positive impact on people who are blind or vision impaired. 

“We did a poll where we said to people ‘tell us the impact of the group on your mental wellbeing’ because lots of people have been saying to us that the group as a whole has had a really positive impact on their mental wellbeing. 

“There are about 2,300 people who filled out the poll and 2,100 of them said that the group has had a really positive impact on their mental wellbeing and it’s that sense of being connected, having a comment sense of purpose and knowing that COVID-19 is really hard for so many people and acts of kindness don’t make coronavirus go away but it can make our lives easier. 

“Kindness Pandemic is having an impact on people who are receiving acts of kindness, and people are saying that’s really powerful. It’s having an impact on people who are doing acts of kindness, they’re saying it helps them feel connected to a higher sense of purpose and that they are not alone. The third one is the group where people are saying it’s improving their mental wellbeing, knowing they can come to this space to read about people doing good for each other.”

For the latest updates on how COVID-19 is impacting the disability sector visit our dedicated COVID-19 information page.

What acts of kindness have you seen during COVID-19? Tell us in the comments below or send an email to [email protected]