‘Hold our elbows, not our hands’ - Blind community concerned about coronavirus

March 16, 2020
Daemion McLean

Blind and visually impaired people are being urged to be extremely vigilant in protecting themselves from COVID-19. Daemion McLean, chairman of the Jamaica Society for the Blind, said that persons who offer to assist members of his community find their way around daily may unintentionally pass the virus to them.

“There are persons who will express some willingness to assist us, and some of the times they are wearing gloves. These gloves can be contaminated because the people wearing them use them to touch up everything,” McLean said.

Jamaica has more 27,000 people who are blind and 80,000 who are visually impaired. A lot of these people sometimes depend on the generosity of others to move about daily.

Sanitise their canes

However, with COVID-19 being a virus that is transmitted by droplet infections, McLean is aware that the helping hand could be a contaminated one. He is encouraging the blind and visually impaired to constantly sanitise their canes, considering they have no idea what or where the tip touches in public.

“I am also encouraging persons to wear a long-sleeve shirt when they are going on the road so that persons will hold on to their clothes instead. Our canes should always be kept clean also because we may wash our hands but we go back go hold on to the same cane handle so it must be sanitised properly,” he said.

The blind man further said that “It is better not to hold on to anyone’s hand middle, but hold on to their elbow instead, and after that sanitise yourself.”

McLean has extended a call to the Health Ministry to include hand sanitisers in care packages, which are distributed in communities that may be quarantined. He argued that many disabled persons, including the blind and visually impaired, were unable to purchase sanitisers during the recent mad rush to stock up on supplies just ahead of the arrival of COVID-19.

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