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Former district judge Elizabeth Manuel was forced to ration a week’s worth of food over several weeks after she was unable to get an online supermarket slot

BLIND and partially sighted people who have struggled to buy food since the lockdown can now get priority online shopping slots.

Changes to supermarket layouts, social distancing and limitations on online delivery slots have made it nearly impossible for those with visual impairments to shop without support.

Now, following months of campaigning by blind charities – including a petition with over 22,000 signatures – online shopping slots at a number of major supermarkets are available for people who cannot safely leave their home and have no social network to support them.

David Clarke, director of services at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: “Our helpline has received thousands of calls from people worried about access to food and many are having to rely on the goodwill of strangers to get the essentials they needed.

“These new slots represent a first step in what, for many blind and partially sighted people, will be a long road to regaining their full independence, enabling them to buy what they want, when they want without support from others.”

Blanche Shackleton, at Guide Dogs, said: “People with sight loss faced a double whammy of being unable to observe social distancing in supermarkets, while also being excluded from priority online delivery slots.”

Former district judge Elizabeth Manuel was forced to ration a week’s worth of food over several weeks after she was unable to get a supermarket slot online.

Ms Manuel, who is partially sighted after suffering a brain haemorrhage when she was 47, self-isolated for 12 weeks from the start of lockdown and is still forced to rely on her neighbour to shop for her.

She said: “For weeks after lockdown started I couldn’t get an online shopping slot despite trying every day. I wrote to the main supermarkets and also my MP to ask for help, but nothing I did resulted in any food or support. My anxiety levels were very high, particularly when I got home after being hospitalised with Covid-19 and still had no way to buy food for myself.

“I’ve been forced to rely on my neighbour, who has been helping me throughout. But I’ve also been rationing the food I have because I don’t want to keep asking them for things and put them at greater risk of catching the virus. The fact that I’ve been unable to get this most basic of necessities myself is shocking in 2020.

“It is a real relief for me, and others with sight loss, that the real difficulties faced by blind and partially sighted people have finally been recognised by the Government.”

The priority shopping slots are now available through referral via RNIB’s Helpline – 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk