Accessibility for the visually impaired amid Covid-19

A silhouette image of a lab guide dog in harness.

My guide Dog Fauna and I ventured a trip to the store yesterday to pick up some much needed provisions (cookies for my son and oranges for me). We had only been in the store for a few minutes before some person was yelling at me for going the wrong way. This seemed odd to me because I have been in this store a million times and never knew about one-way traffic. Once we got home, I took a look at the news and apparently Colorado stores are implementing traffic signs on the ground of the store aisles to keep traffic flowing and more importantly maintaining the six-foot social distancing for everyone’s safety. 

This is a great idea, because people are silly and don’t adhere to social distancing guidelines so signs reminding them of proper distancing etiquette is a positive thing. The problems arise when you can’t see the signs, and they seemingly appear out of nowhere overnight. If I could see traffic signs, I’d be driving a car instead of walking with a guide dog. I don’t know about you all, but I am a creature of habit, I expect things to be in a certain place and it is tough when they change things around on you. Last year when we won (?) the ability to sell pull-proof beer in the stores here in Colorado, the stores moved everything around to make room for the big beer aisle. This meant location changes for the normal items I went to the store for, as well as removing many of the brands I commonly bought to make room for the beer. These kinds of changes take time, and people need to be understanding about it. Especially for a guide who is used to traversing the grocery store in a certain pattern and stopping at specific locations for items. 

This brings me to today’s article which focuses on accessibility for the blind and visually impaired and the Covid-19 virus. The article mentions the newly implemented signs for grocery stores, however, it seems as though other states have implemented the signs more accessible-friendly than Colorado has.  The other big issue is the drive-thru Coronavirus testing facilities. What are you supposed to do as a blind person if you can’t drive a car? Finding a friend to drive you is usually an options, however I would not want to ask a friend to sit in the car for hours with me to wait and get a test. This defeats the purpose of social distancing and could potentially put a well-meaning friend’s health at risk if I did indeed have the virus. 

It can be said that this same issue is present for fast food establishments. Right now, most of the fast food places here in Colorado are open to drive-thru traffic only. With no curbside pickup option available this is another difficult situation for those of us who are not able to drive a car. I totally get that these are unusual times and that the drive-thru option is available so that there is one way people can get the goods, but that doesn’t make it accessible to all. I am patient, and I understand that this virus thing hit us out of nowhere and that there were not solid contingency plans in place for an event like this. We are all figuring this new normal out together, but we need to make sure that our voice is heard and that services are accessible to all. Here is the article, I would love to hear your thoughts on ways businesses can make their services more accessible in these strange times.

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