Pandemic perspectives from visually impaired persons

Some voices have stated this pandemic was an equalizer since it put humanity in the same shared health risk. However, we see this pandemic has caused even more inequity than before.

Photo of several people with white canes, walking down a corridor, only the feet visible and the canes making contact.

A concrete example is the Dialogue in the Dark exhibitions which had to close and those visually impaired colleagues who had a permanent or temporary job loss.

To make visible the perspectives of the visually impaired community on this pandemic, we had the chance to make some interviews with current and former Dialogue in the Dark visually impaired friends from several countries as Germany, Italy, Ireland, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and more. We tried to enquiry three main topics.

Their anonymous and summarized answers are below:

How have you coped with the pandemic?

“We managed to accept the situation and to be grateful that our personal situation is pretty perfect for a pandemic. I also had bad days and tried to accept that life does not consists of happy days only.”

“I also considered a lot about our ancestors, in the last 20 years we think everything happens in real time, but our parents and grandparents probably had a much lower set of expectations, not dissimilar to our experience in Covid - it was for me like re-aligning my expectations and being content with that I had, focusing on the positive and not the negative.”

“I had more free time for reflection on how have I been spending my time and what is truly important to me.”

“We found new family rituals like watching a crime movie each Friday, playing different board games Saturday night, buying fresh fruits and vegetables at the market each Thursday morning.”

“I made a firm effort to get exercise each day, whether a walk, run or some yoga-type exercise, I am reminded of a story from Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison, he said one of the things he did was get up early each morning and do exercises in his confined space.”

“I phoned my best friends more often and also talked on the phone to people I haven't spoken to in ages.”

“I had more time to read books. I attended several online courses – English, meditation, yoga, creative writing…”

“The pandemic allowed me to draw closer to God, reading and even memorizing verses from the Bible. This has helped me to feel peace amidst the unknown and ever-changing circumstances caused by the pandemic.”

What did you do to play a role / help the one in need during the pandemic time?

"When the pandemic started my husband and I visited all our old neighbors and offered help with shopping. Since than we do the shopping for an old lady.”

“In early 2021 took on a fundraising running challenge with my brother and raised €27,000 for mental health charity.”

“Many of my fellow guides helped to packed thermometers to be distributed to the students at Ngee An Polytechnic at which DiDsg is located."

“I started to contact by phone, the elderly folks in my church during the locked-down. I coordinate a regular weekly prayer zoom group for my church. As far as possible, I visit elderly folks at their homes to provide them a good listening ear and to cheer them up.”

“When we were totally shut down, I began to help young children of friends with their studies by collaborating on story writing. Families found themselves in a difficult situation where they had to do schoolwork from home, and I wanted to help by making writing fun and to give my friends a little time off. We did the story writing via emails.”

Do you have any idea or suggestion for maintaining and improving inclusion for blind and visually impaired people in the new normal time?

“What works for me in this time is storytelling. I know many of our guides and facilitators who have a talent for storytelling. It is a real skill and many would benefit to develop their talent in a professional way. I also believe that coaching can be a profession for some of our facilitators and guides. Listening and talking are the two skills that blind man and woman can offer the world now.”

“It would be great to have blind and visually impaired find work in mainstream employment, perhaps with the increasing Diversity and Inclusion agenda this will be possible.”

“The new normal means pushing boundaries. This is even more important for the blind community. We have to keep pushing and trying out new ways of doing things, exercising our mental muscles, and stretching our creative minds for a better future. Whatever which cannot be done in the past is just that - in the past.”

“I think the most important thing is to keep in touch with young people. They represent the future, so we must help them to overcome prejudices about disabilities. In this way young people learn a new way of seeing life and the importance of everyone’s inclusion. In this pandemic time the dialogue can continue online like we have done in Milano. During this time, my bosses asked me to write some posts or articles to keep contact with former and future visitors. Furthermore we created Business Workshops online and Meetings with schools at which I sometimes participated.”

“I think that social media is a great channel for blind people inclusion. For example YouTube or TikTok. I dream of a blind chef show on YouTube for example. I think blind people can show their talents and go viral.”

The visually impaired community has shown psychological, spiritual, behavioral, and social resources to cope with the pandemic. They have shown their will to collaborate and serve their community as well as some ideas and thoughts on how to safeguard and impulse inclusion in the new normal. We cannot see but we want to be seen. For this we participate in society and raise the voice.

Hopefully, the inclusion gaps caused by the pandemic will be filled soon with inclusion and more Dialogue.