Blind Worksop man “scared to go out” for fear of bumping into someone

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A Worksop man who is deaf and blind says he is scared to go out alone during the coronavirus pandemic for fear of bumping into people.

John Crofts, 75, went blind ten years ago and has relied on his guide dog Chris to get about ever since.

Father-of-one John told how before the virus struck he and wife Janet would take the bus into town every week to shop and for a meal.

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He would go into Iceland or Wilkos alone for bits around the house and then the pair would meet at Wetherspoons for a meal - with faithful black lab Chris leading John to his usual table.

John CroftJohn Croft
John Croft

However John told how during social-distancing he was getting dangerously close to passers-by because guide dog Chris often brought him within “two inches” of other shoppers.

Though John is still able to get about with help from wife Janet, 75, he admits if he were on his own he ‘wouldn’t like to go anywhere’.

John, who has not been into Worksop town centre since Covid-19 hit, said: “The dog can’t do social distance.

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“He keeps me away from other people by going around them or sometimes between them if there’s a big enough gap – but only by a couple of inches.

Julie Scarle, with guide dog Elsa, says disability rights have been put back 50 years by the pandemicJulie Scarle, with guide dog Elsa, says disability rights have been put back 50 years by the pandemic
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“If Janet’s with me she’s walking behind and if she thinks I’ll bump into someone she tells me to stop so I can let them pass.

“But if I was on my own it would be difficult - I’d be worried about it and I wouldn’t like to go anywhere.”

Julie Scarle, of vision loss charity My Sight Nottinghamshire, said blind and visually-impaired people were getting left behind as lockdown restrictions are eased.

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As many begin returning to normal activities the blind are left marginalised by social-distancing signage they cannot detect.

Julie, who can see very little after suffering damage to her retinas as a baby, told how lines marking two metres and directional arrows in shops and on public transport were “useless”.

She said: “I went careering into a pharmacy where only three people were allowed at a time after missing a sign on the door.

“I know of one lady who accidentally bumped into someone and was called a “blind b**** - we’re finding sometimes the public are understanding and sometimes they’re not.

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“There’s a lot of apprehension and now we can go to pubs and restaurants our community is frightened of getting it wrong - of being social pariahs.”

Mum-of-two Julie believes more kindness and understanding is needed not just from the general public but from workers in shops and other services.

She said: “I walk around with a long cane and others have guide dogs so it’s quite obvious when there’s sight loss.

“Members of the public need to be more aware that we cannot see and give us more room and shop staff could help more by asking us what we need and getting it for us.

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“The pandemic has put disability rights back by 50 years - and 30 per cent of the visually-impaired live alone so there’s no-one to help them.”

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