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Volunteers launch socially distanced guiding for residents with sight loss

Volunteers from the Hammersmith Mutual Aid group have launched a support service for residents living with sight loss at Pocklington Lodge. 

The accommodation site, which is located near Ravenscourt Park, is specially designed for people with visual impairments who are living independently. In addition to reading post to residents on a daily basis, volunteers have been taking people on socially distanced guided walks, in line with government guidance. 

“The lodge had a service that provided letter reading, but it stopped when the pandemic hit,” says Sorrell Rix, a local resident who has been responsible for organising the group of volunteers. “One of the residents contacted the Mutual Aid phone number to see if we could help. We worked out a plan to come in morning and evening in order to offer a reading service.” Volunteers wear a mask, stand at least two metres from residents and sanitise the area between each visitor. 

Since the service launched, volunteers have been trained by Pocklington Lodge resident Andrew Hodgson to take people on socially distanced guided walks. “For people like me living with blindness, it’s more difficult for us to get out with the social distancing rules in place. As a solution to this problem, I have been training volunteers to guide me from two metres away,” he explains. The technique involves the guide taking one end of a long cane or bamboo stick, while the person with visual impairment takes the other end. “In our right hand we take another long cane for guiding. This helps us to find obstacles such as lampposts which it would be hard for someone in front to guide around.” He says the project is working “very well” so far.

Elsa Nuthall, a local A-level student, is the admin officer for the Ravenscourt Park Mutual Aid Group and volunteers for the service. “It’s something I’ve been able to help with and I really love coming down here and speaking to the residents. It’s made me realise that there are people in the community who need our support and there are plenty of people on hand to offer it. I hope that community spirit lasts long after the pandemic is over.” 

Some of the residents at Pocklington Lodge are also members of The London Sports Club for the Blind. The club promotes sports and social activities for visually impaired people living in London, including swimming, ten pin bowling, rowing, canoeing and rambling. During lockdown, the club has been unable to fundraise through collections, leaving them in financial crisis. The club has established an online donation option in lieu of collections, in the hope that it can resume these valuable sporting activities once lockdown ends. 

Donations to the club can be made here.

[Non-visual description of image: picture of a group of volunteers practicing socially distanced guiding in the park]


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