Friday 20th March 2020
May I firstly take the opportunity to thank you sincerely for taking time out to read this letter at what I know is a period of unprecedented demand and strain on your sector, company and staff.
Like you, we are also coming to terms with what the coronavirus crisis means. In the forefront of our minds is how it will impact on blind and partially sighted people and how our charities can best act to continue to support their needs.
As you may be aware, our organisations work alongside and support blind and partially sighted people across the UK. Our key consideration at this time is how to ensure that they are able to continue to live independently and follow government advice such as “self-isolating”, something which poses a particular problem to our community.
A key element of everyday living is the ability to shop for groceries, medicines and other essentials for daily life. Blind and partially sighted people have historically taken advantage of online shopping and delivery services. We have worked with many providers to ensure that apps and websites are accessible to allow people to independently fill their basket, check out and have it delivered to their door.
We want to acknowledge the excellent measures that some in the sector have put in place such as early shopping hours for vulnerable and disabled customers and please be reassured that such measures are hugely beneficial and welcome.
In relation to online shopping and home delivery however, we are receiving large numbers of distressed calls from blind and partially sighted people who are unable to obtain their usual delivery slot and in most cases are unable to get a suitable slot for over three weeks.
We are sure you can understand the anxiety this can cause for people who are often already struggling with their wellbeing, not to mention the worry of going without vital foods, medicines and other essentials.
We do understand that there are numerous calls on your sector at present to support society in a whole variety of ways, but I would respectfully ask you to consider putting in place a telephone or online scheme whereby blind and partially sighted people are able to pre-book online shopping and home delivery slots in order to guarantee their food supply and therefore provide them with the ability to live independently and minimise anxiety.
We plan to communicate with our members and service users to let them know what assistance supermarkets are putting in place next week. With this in mind, we would ask that you respond to this letter by Wednesday 25th March.
We appreciate this is a short time frame, but one that we hope you will be able to accommodate given the severity of the circumstances.
We would be more than happy to work with you to formulate an appropriate scheme should our input prove helpful.
Charles Colquhoun, CEO, Thomas Pocklington Trust
Fiona Sandford, CEO, Visionary
Matt Stringer, CEO, RNIB
Tom Wright, CEO, Guide Dogs