Awareness campaign launched in Essex to highlight sensory impairments

Sam Fox, who lives with sight loss, is a member of the Collaborate Essex forum, and has been involved in the production of...

Sam Fox, who lives with sight loss, is a member of the Collaborate Essex forum, and has been involved in the production of the sensory awareness campaign. - Credit: Healthwatch Essex

Essex residents are being encouraged to ‘be aware, tolerant and kind’ to people living with sensory impairment as part of a campaign showing their new reality during COVID-19.

The campaign has been co-created by Healthwatch Essex and people in the county who are deaf, blind and deafblind, all working within a forum called ‘Collaborate Essex’.

They have shared their experiences in a short film giving insight into the challenges of social distancing during a pandemic, when you aren’t able to see or hear clearly. including doing ordinary tasks like shopping, travelling on public transport and working. 

The campaign follows on from reports across the country of aggression and hostility towards people with sensory impairment when they were unable to follow signage and new rules as easily during the height of the pandemic.

Collaborate Essex members have said they find it difficult to social distance, lip read through masks and see COVID-19 specific signage, including one-way systems around shops. Their guide dogs are also not trained to understand the new restrictions and can’t locate the end of queues.

Forum member Sam Fox, who lives with sight loss, said: “The pandemic has been horrendous as a blind person. If I’m not holding onto my guide dog, I have to touch things around me and it’s unsafe. I’m washing and sanitising my hands upwards of 15 times a day due to touching and social distancing.

“I want everybody to just take a little bit of time to notice what we are going through. I think the film is a fantastic reflection on what it’s like for those with sensory impairment on a day-to-day basis”.

Healthwatch chief executive Sam Glover added: “COVID-19 has brought new challenges to the sensory impaired community and listening to lived experiences is at the heart of what we do.

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“We have worked with members of Collaborate Essex who live with sight and hearing loss to develop the sensory awareness campaign.

“Although we think being patient and caring is important all the time, this campaign is aimed to create awareness of being aware, tolerant and kind to those with sensory impairment during coronavirus and the unprecedented circumstances it has created”.