Without a doubt, amid physical distancing due to COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is undergoing a plethora of different emotions as they come to terms with some major transformations in their everyday lives including government policies and the daily news concerning the pandemic.
These are trying times, even more so for people struggling with visual impairment or blindness as they frequently rely on sense of touch. Moreover, coronavirus has also compromised their mobility and independence making life far more challenging. As an individual with low vision, your day to day lifestyle is not exactly conducive against COVID-19. Therefore, we will discuss some tips to ensure your well being while you safely make your way through this health-care crisis.
First off, acquiring awareness is important for understanding the fight against Coronavirus. Let us see what Coronavirus or COVID-19 really is.
What is coronavirus/ COVID-19?
Beginning from Wuhan, China, the coronavirus has spread out to several countries of the world and continues further.
By definition, coronavirus disease / COVID-19, is a respiratory illness and shows symptoms similar to those of influenza. The official name for the novel coronavirus is SARS-CoV-2. The first of the coronavirus, (SARS-CoV) was identified in 2003, followed by MERS in 2012, and SARS-CoV-2 in 2019.
The initial symptoms include dry cough, sore throat, and fever. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have contracted this virus, you can refer to this guide for a quick self-check and distinguish the features of Coronavirus from seasonal cold or allergies.
Now that you know what coronavirus is, let’s browse through some useful tips to help you stay safe.
Tips for Staying Safe and Connected
We have pooled some useful resources for you and we highly recommend that you follow the guidelines given by CDC. Look out for your own health and that of your loved ones by observing these prevention tips amidst the COVID-19 situation.
1: Social distancing; using cane/stick for wayfinding
As a visually impaired person, your routine life requires making direct contact with other people and surfaces quite frequently as you find your way around by touching walls, doors, surrounding objects and other people’s hands and shoulders. However, to protect yourself from becoming infected by COVID-19, it is better that you use a cane/stick to move around. It can assist to feel objects in your way and make your path as you go. Having a guide dog accompany you would also be a good idea. This way, you will be able to keep a safe distance from others and still be able to navigate your surroundings.
Germs from coughing or sneezing can be contaminating, so avoid being too close around people and try to maintain a distance of at least 2 meters (6 feet) between yourself and another person. If you must take someone’s hand for wayfinding, either don your gloves before or use a sanitizer to thoroughly clean your hands right after you reach your destination.
Despite what first comes to mind when we say social distancing, this doesn’t only apply to people you meet outdoors but also within your household. Although as members of the same household, you cannot entirely distance yourselves from each other, try avoiding using shared spaces. Also, the warm hugs to your grandchildren can wait just a bit longer.
(Note that elderly people are at a much greater risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19 than youngsters.)
2: Online assistance for blind while observing social distance
When your visual impairment gets in the way of accomplishing routine tasks and you feel the need to get help from a sighted person, we recommend that you hop right on to this online app, Be My Eyes. This app brings you readily available assistance by people who are sighted and want to volunteer to help you through your difficulty.
By connecting online with a sighted person, you can maintain social distance as well as seek help with anything that you may need. Whether it is reading a label or finding the right color shirt, you’ve got it all done.
Although it is best that you sit at home during COVID-19 but, if you must go outside to get essentials, Nearby explorer is another app to guide you along your path. It leads you to your destination by giving accurate directions of every street corner and turns that come along the way.
3: Maintain excellent hygiene
Maintaining good hygiene is something that will always pay you, coronavirus or not! But these times call for special attention toward hygiene care. So let’s see what we can do to keep ourselves and our surroundings clean.
Try to keep your possessions organized and ordered. Lesser clutter means lesser surfaces for germs to sit on, in addition to which your spick and span surroundings will reap surprisingly powerful psychological benefits for you.
To avoid germs from spreading, you should also routinely clean the most frequently touched surfaces, such as the handle of your walking cane, glasses, braille, mobile phone, dog harness, low vision devices etc.
At mealtimes, use your own tableware and eat in separate dishes instead of sharing. Also wash them properly afterwards.
Avoid sharing your toiletries, such as toothbrush, soap and towel. Also wash your towel regularly.
When you sneeze or cough, the droplets from your mouth can fly out upto 10 meters. Of these, the droplets larger in size are thought to be carrying coronavirus and can go upto 2 meters.
Hence, always sneeze/cough in a handkerchief or the inside of your elbow.
Separate your clothes for outdoor visits from the ones to wear inside the house. Also change your bed linen frequently and use freshly washed sheets.
4: Wash your hands regularly
Medical practitioners and experts have sent out the word that you can prevent coronavirus from spreading and get rid of the germs by the simple act of washing hands.
Given how much we use our hands to navigate through our environments, if washing your hands regularly wasn’t already a habit, then it is about time to make a new healthy habit this season. Touching walls, table tops, doors, braille and other objects can infest your hands with germs, and you remain at high risk of transferring these to your mouth or nose unknowingly during a random touch on face.
Also, be sure to either wash or sanitize yourself after coming home from outside. This lessens your hazard of catching germs that are transferred by contact with random objects and surfaces during the day.
Make sure that you wash your hands regularly with soap and water several times a day for at least 20 seconds, especially before and after meals. Alternatively, when soap isn’t handy you can also use an alcohol based hand rub to clean your hands.
(Although, soapy water is best!)
Why use soapy water for washing hands?
How is it that none of the modern drugs can kill coronavirus but your ordinary soap does the tough job?
The coronavirus, like most viruses, is made up of a layer of lipid fats within which it thrives. The soapy water breaks this fatty layer apart, like it does with most viruses and as a result the virus becomes inactive. This is why washing your hands can help protect you from germs as it destroys them.
What is the proper way of washing hands?
Most of us wash our hands briefly taking no more than a few seconds, but a UV experiment showed how germs remain stuck to our hands without proper rubbing, so here’s how you should really wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or apply a sanitizer thoroughly to ensure careful cleansing and make your hands germ-free.
5: Avoid outdoor trips – better cautious than sorry
As per research findings, the virus is not airborne and therefore your chances of contracting it simply by breathing are zero. However, going out results in the public gathering of several people who may come into close contact and put each other at a risk of getting infected.
Therefore, it is better to be cautious than expose yourself to this life threatening disease. We recommend that you limit your trips outside, and leave your house only when necessary such as for work, or to buy groceries. Meanwhile, you can take a break from the outside chores and enjoy the benefits of home delivery services available at various clothing outlets, accessories, food, and groceries.
6: Home delivery services for the visually impaired and blind
We know what you’re thinking, if you can’t go outside, how will you possibly get your groceries done? Get your eyeglasses? Medication?
Well, we’ve got that covered. The visually impaired and blind people are no stranger to the ease of access offered by various home delivery services for daily use items, starting from fully prepped meals to your prescription eyewear.
Online services such as Doordash can bring you a warm and ready meal for you to eat, without so much as moving a finger! Not literally though, all you have to do is tap tap, and place a quick order online through their mobile app.
If you want to restock your groceries, you can head on to Kroger, which lets you fill your cart with food and household items, and provides delivery services across most of the midwestern and southern states of US.
For someone with low vision, prescription eyewear is one of the most essential items in the shopping lists. However, you don’t necessarily have to walk all the way to the store to find your perfect eyewear. Instead, it is now available at your doorstep, and not just that, you can select and try any 5 pairs at home, thanks to the online services of Warby Parker.
These are just some services that we have mentioned above, there are numerous others for every chore that you want to get done while staying indoors.
7: Precautions to take before heading outdoors
Despite the availability of online delivery services, there may still arrive the need for you to go out for some purpose. If that happens, we recommend that you step out only after taking appropriate precautions.
Carry a cane with you at all times, or take a guide dog so you can find your way without having to come into close contact with other people or having to sense your way by touching such as stair railings and walls.
Wear plastic or disposable gloves while you are outside so that whatever objects you hold or take support of do not contaminate you. Throw out the used pair of gloves as soon as you get home, and thoroughly wash your hands.
You must wear a face mask before you head outside in order to prevent the virus from entering your system through air passages. Face masks are available at every departmental store, or you can order them online through Amazon.
8: Going into self-quarantine
If you or a family member experiences symptoms of sickness for some days, or even if you think you have got a cold, the first thing to do is to immediately self-quarantine.
The symptoms of coronavirus do not show for 1-14 days (mostly 5 days) of contracting it, and the early symptoms are mild enough to be misunderstood for a seasonal flu. So self-isolation will ensure that you do not accidentally infect anyone around you. Don’t go to work, school or any public places, instead designate a well ventilated room of the house for yourself and stay there. Meanwhile, have a relative or family member arrange food and other essentials for your use.
9: Take no chances, seek medical care if sick
If you have cough, fever and breathing difficulty, and you notice your symptoms worsening over time then you should call your doctor and seek medical advice. It is essential that you first inform them over the phone before meeting them in person. Why?
First off, your doctor gets an idea of your symptoms just by thorough questioning.
He might conclude that you can likely recover if you’re taken care of at home, and give you health advice to follow.
Secondly, as the pandemic wave has brought many people down to a life and death situation, the hospitals have since become a crowded place where they are struggling to create more space for new patients. It is also the very place where you are most likely to be exposed to viruses if you are not yet affected.
However, if you must go to the hospital, call them beforehand so they can make arrangements for a sterile environment to prevent the virus from spreading.
10: Take a relaxing break from work
The arrival of COVID-19 may have locked you indoors but while you have the chance, make the best of these times and take a break from the mechanical work duties of everyday life. Relax and spend your time reconnecting with your family.
As of now, every space of social media is covered with news of growing numbers of COVID-19 patients. Constantly keeping up with the news updates on new cases can actually tire your psychological reserves and increase worry, here’s why you should avoid watching stressful news and minimize your use of screens. When you do use screens, do so for educating yourself on preventive measures for the disease or other activities.
Here’s a list of activities that you would definitely enjoy doing and which will give you quality time within your house. In your leisure hours, you can choose to read books that you haven’t had the time to read in a long while, play a board game or revive your long forgotten hobby. This can be a good time to reconnect with nature, and indulge yourself in activities such as exercising, watering plants, maintaining your kitchen garden.
11: Now might be a great time for meditation
While it may seem that the year 2020 has taken off with a dark mood by inflicting disease worldwide, we can use the advent of COVID-19 to our advantage. With bans put on stepping outside, and forcing you into quarantine, we think that this is a great time for self reflection and meditation.
Don’t let a lack of social interaction lower your spirits, rather you can use this time to find peace and calm within the walls of your house. Meditate and replenish your energy so that you can happily return to your daily routine with a clearer mind as well as a progressive and productive approach after the quarantine period.