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Navigating a New Normal

Bosma Enterprises - 7/28/2020 2:39:00 PM

The coronavirus impact can be felt all over the world. However, for people in the blind community, the coronavirus has posed even more challenges. In this blog, people who are blind share some of their challenges navigating the world during a global pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has created new challenges for people who are blind or visually impaired because they depend heavily on their sense of touch to understand and familiarize themselves with the world around them. The sense of touch is the closest sense to vision and a primary means of how people who are blind or visually impaired see the world. However, what if touching surfaces leads to contracting a deadly virus? To that end, people who are blind are scrambling to adjust to this new way of living.

Touch allows a person who is blind to know if something is hanging from their beard, or if something was in their eyes or nose. Taking pride in yourself and ensuring you are looking your best is something we all do, but people who are blind cannot look in a mirror like our sighted counterparts. So, we have to depend on our sense of touch, rather than hoping someone will inform you of that object hanging off your beard.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus has made the blind community more vulnerable and more dependent on their family and friends. For James Michaels, VP of Programs at Bosma Enterprises’ Center for Visionary Solutions for the Blind, the coronavirus has posed some new barriers and problems.

For James, the sense of touch plays a vital role, especially when meeting new people. James admits that not being able to shake a person’s hand upon meeting them is difficult. “Shaking someone’s hand helps you get oriented when talking,” said James Michaels.

However, with everyone having to social distance, shaking hands is frowned upon, making it challenging to get acquainted with someone new or to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. In the blind community, shaking hands also represents an important component of building rapport. Similar to how a sighted person may look at another sighted person directly in their eyes when conversing, people who are blind often get the same sense of connection by touching or shaking someone’s hand.

You may be asking yourself, why don’t they just wear gloves? Although gloves can be a good option, there are times when wearing gloves is not ideal. For instance, when reading Braille, your fingers need to be able to feel every dot to know what you are reading, which isn’t doable when wearing gloves. Also, when using a white cane to travel, gloves tend to reduce feeling and may cause you to miss a turn or a critical landmark you may have been searching for. 

With everything around us changing constantly, people in the blind community have had to quickly adapt their current circumstances to make it in this new world, like taking advantage of online shopping apps to get groceries and other household items. 

Many people who are blind have been shopping online for years. However, with everyone practicing social distancing and stores being overworked, people who are blind are not able to get assistance from store employees as easy as they used to. Instead of dealing with the hassle of getting someone to drive you to the store or taking a ride share service, many people in the blind community are learning how to use shopping apps like Instacart and Amazon, to get much-needed items.

Fortunately, Bosma Enterprises has been providing virtual assistive technology training and other valuable resources to aid those who may not be as familiar with these apps.

Virtual training has been beneficial and allows us to stay connected with clients as we navigate this new normal. For teachers of the blind and visually impaired, not being able to be hands-on with clients or students is strange. “You rarely hear a teacher say, can I show you something,” said Katrina Anderson, communications instructor at Bosma Enterprises.

Teachers of the blind and visually impaired operate mainly by touch and are very hands-on with their students, to show them how to write Braille, or demonstrate proper cooking and cane techniques. 

Virtual training has been a good workaround in certain areas, but there is nothing like face-to-face interaction with others. You take touch away, and a person who is blind life becomes isolated, which can cause people who are blind to feel even more lonely during these times of social distancing.

If you or someone you know is blind or visually impaired and in need of resources, please call our toll-free line at 888.567.3422 or visit us on the web at www.bosma.org. Our programs team is still hard at work, providing resources and assistance to Hoosiers living with vision loss.