The campaign involves Europe’s biggest advertising display – the Piccadilly Lights – running upturned displays in London every hour as a representation of the World Upside Down that people with sight loss are facing.
According to the charity, there are more than two million people with sight loss in the UK, however, social distancing – which relies heavily on sight – makes it a nightmare for them to navigate safely and independently.
In fact, a recent RNIB survey found that 66% of those with sight loss feel less independent now than before lockdown. 80% said the way they shop has changed, with only half continuing to shop independently.
To highlight these issues, RNIB has enlisted numerous companies across the UK – including Kellogg's, Amazon, TalkTalk, P&G and LEGO, among others – to feature their advertising upside down on Piccadilly Lights. The takeover of Piccadilly Lights will happen every hour at 50 minutes past the hour during 7am-11pm GMT, starting today (July 6) and running for one week.
The campaign is also asking consumers to lend their support by turning their social media profile pictures upside down and testing themselves with the charity’s online social distancing quiz.
“Blind and partially sighted people like me are used to navigating a world not designed with us in mind, but social distancing has really turned our world upside down,” said Eleanor Southwood, chair of Trustees at RNIB.
“A lot of the strategies and tools we use to get around safely – like being guided – are not allowed under current rules, and many have been left stranded.
“We’ve heard from many blind and partially sighted people who are incredibly anxious about how to manage the situation, and we’re concerned that this will have a real impact on people’s quality of life. The ‘new normal’ risks causing a double lockdown for people with sight loss. This is not fair or acceptable.
“We’re asking the general public to help us safely social distance whilst getting on with life. By being aware of the challenges we might face, and simply asking if assistance is needed, you can help us keep our independence and stay safe.
“We also want the Government and businesses to take action, so that measures designed to protect us are inclusive to everyone, not just to those who can see them.”
The little things that make big changes
Rachael Pereira from Nottingham highlighted the challenges facing vision impaired people.
Pereira (33) is completely blind in her left eye due to bilateral congenital cataracts and tunnel vision in her right eye as a result of glaucoma.
“People tell me off for getting too close to them, but I can’t see them there. It’s really upsetting because it makes me feel as though I put people at risk of contracting coronavirus,” she said.
“It’s not just people either. I’ve even bumped my head on the clear Perspex screens at supermarket tills because they aren’t clearly marked. It’s little things like this happening every day that make me feel inferior and put me off from going out alone at all.
“If people were more aware of the blind or partially sighted people around them, I feel like they might be more understanding. And I really feel that floor markings for social distancing should be made tactile, so that I can feel them with my cane. It’s little changes like this that could make a big difference.”
The Piccadilly Lights artwork was created by The&Partnership and is being hosted by Ocean Outdoor without charge.
Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are.