NCBI marks World Sight Day 2020 by highlighting the many serious challenges for the vision impaired during COVID 19 Pandemic

Thursday 8th October 2020, Today being World Sight Day, NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland) is marking it by highlighting the impact the COVID19 pandemic has had on people who are blind or vision impaired. This international annual day focuses global attention on those living with low or no vision and NCBI calls for greater public and political understanding and commitment to ensure their needs are met.

Kevin Kelly, NCBI Head of Advocacy said “Without question, 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. But for people who are blind or vision impaired the loss of their sense of touch has been particularly difficult as now touching surfaces or products carries significant risks. This has led to increased feelings of isolation and anxiousness which have been added to by the additional challenges of getting around due to social distancing requirements.

NCBI is calling on the general public to act again to allow the 54,810 people in Ireland who are blind and vision-impaired to attempt to safely socially distance as we enter Level 3 restrictions across the country as cases of Covid-19 are rising.  Practicing or engaging in physical or social distancing is virtually impossible for people who are blind or vision-impaired.

How the public can help:

  • People should always afford a blind or vision-impaired person the required two metres distance in all circumstances.
  • People should make their presence known verbally before offering assistance.
  • People should never just grab someone who is blind or vision-impaired in the belief that they are being helpful.
  • When queuing outside shops, people should be careful not to block the path of someone who is blind or vision-impaired.

Kevin Kelly added “With no end in sight for Covid19, NCBI has adapted and will continue to adapt our services to ensure we can continue to provide support to people with sight loss. But our services are in high demand and stretched to the max as we try to ensure people stay connected and can live confidently. We urge Budget 2021 to contain additional financial measures to ensure the ongoing delivery of our services. and to act to introduce measures to support people who are blind and vision impaired directly.”

In summary, NCBI calls on Budget 2021 to do the following:

  • Increase Blind Pension & Disability Allowance by at least €20 per week
  • Increase the Living Alone Allowance by at least €5 per week to offset the additional costs of Covid19.
  • The Telephone Support Allowance needs to be extended to people who are blind and vision impaired who are in receipt of Social Protection payments to ensure they can remain connected during Covid19.
  • The Workplace Adaptation Grant and Employer Supports need to be increased to retain jobs and support remote working.
  • Eligibility criteria for access to the free travel scheme should be changed to include those with a long-term eye condition, which renders their level of vision insufficient to meet criteria for a driver’s licence.


For further information, please contact June Tinsley, Head of Communications on 01 8821917 or 087 9955076.

Notes to Editor

NCBI is the national sight loss organisation, working for people with sight loss.

We provide practical and emotional support, rehabilitation services and other training designed to help people with sight loss to live independently and confidently.

Services Offered:

  • Emotional support and counselling for people struggling to come to terms with sight loss.
  • Rehabilitation training, including independent living skills and mobility training, which may include using a long cane. Loss of independence is the biggest issue facing people – NCBI gives back independence and builds confidence.
  • Advice and information.
  • Low vision solutions, such as magnifiers and other aids.
  • Assistive technology advice and training to learn how to access all accessibility features in mainstream technology as well as latest gadgets and Apps all designed to assist people living with sight loss.
  • Library – large-print, Braille and audio books – giving back the joy of reading.
  • Employment advice.

As a charity NCBI must raise €3 million annually just to keep operating at current levels that equates to €4 out of every €10 we spend on vital services.