Kyla’s Lockdown Experience

Kyla wearing a headset as she operates the Office Services Reception at RNC

Lockdown has proved incredibly difficult for the blind and visually impaired community who are usually completely independent and not classed as vulnerable. However, in these circumstances, they have become increasingly more so.

Kyla Smith was completing the Specialist Employability Support (SES) Programme at The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) before lockdown occurred and this is Kyla’s lockdown experience:

My name is Kyla Smith, I am registered sight impaired, a full-time carer and also a volunteer for Look UK

Due to the struggles visually impaired and blind people are facing regarding getting onto the priority list for online delivery slots, I thought I would share my own personal experiences of the difficulties I faced when going out shopping and also how I was able to eventually get on the priority list for online delivery slots. 

Shopping had become a real challenge for me because I had to rely on a friend to take me shopping once a week. I was unable to get online delivery slots, meaning I had to put my health at risk by going out when I was really supposed to be self-isolating for my own safety, as well as my partner’s, who I care for. I also had to have assistance from my friend when out shopping, as due to my visual impairment I am unable to identify the two metre social distancing rule.  

What made shopping really difficult for me was that I did not have my guide dog to guide me safely. She is not with me at the moment because she, like other guide dogs, does not understand the social distancing concept.

She is a very sociable dog, so people want to constantly stroke her and say hello. As you can imagine, at this weird time, people wanting to approach us would cause me a lot of anxiety as I did not know if they were keeping their distance from me or not. Also, I wouldn’t be able to take her out for enough walks due to me having to self-isolate – another reason why she is with her guide dog boarder until the lockdown is lifted. 

Due to the challenges I was facing, I knew I needed to try to see if I could get onto the priority list for online shopping.

When I first tried to use the online shopping system for my local supermarket, I could not get any slots. I then rang the customer service team to explain that I am visually impaired and explained the challenges I faced with social distancing in their store.

A member of the customer service team informed me that as I was only registered visually impaired, according to government guidelines, I did not qualify as an extremely vulnerable person. Therefore, I could not be put onto the priority list for delivery slots.

I explained to them that I had an underlying health condition which I had to take medication for, which suppresses the immune system. They conceded and I was placed on the priority list once relevant checks had been made. I got access to delivery slots within 24 hours. 

Now, even though I get my shopping delivered, it is still a lottery as to when the slots become available. For example, one minute there will be no delivery slots available and then when I check again there are free slots. I think it is down to just having the perseverance to keep checking every few hours if one has the time to do this.

The one thing I have learnt through my experiences is to register for priority shopping with many supermarkets. Then, once you are on the priority list, you will be more likely to book a delivery slot and won’t have to worry about getting your shopping or not.

Also, RNIB, Guide Dogs and other charities are working together to campaign for visually impaired people to get on the priority list for those delivery slots so, hopefully, things will get better. 

With this in mind, here is a list of supermarkets and their contact details which you can try to get yourselves on the priority list for delivery slots:

Sainsbury’s: 0800 917 8557 or 0800 953 4988

Tesco: 0800 917 7359

Morrisons: 0345 611 6111 choose Option 5 or Option 2

Morrisons deliver with Deliveroo. They do a basics box. You can order from a list of essential items and its free delivery all over the phone.  You pay with card when they arrive.  They’re encouraging contactless so shop up to £45.  

Wiltshire Farm Foods: 0800 046 5614

I hope this information can help you? Stay safe and stay positive.

Kyla Smith


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