Okay, the title of this blog is not all it seems. I’m Sam and the Labrador in question is my three-year-old guide dog Annie, who accompanied me to and from my first COVID vaccination appointment.
So how did I find the whole process as a registered blind woman?
Lots of positives. The appointment was booked for me, over the phone, by a staff member at my usual GP practice. The vaccination itself was to take place at a medical centre less than half an hours walk from my home and in a venue I had visited previously. When you can’t drive or don’t have access to a car, the ability to get to any particular destination independently is paramount. So I love the fact that this appointment was local and its location already known to me.
After our walk into town we arrived at the venue. There were a number of people outside so I enquired as to whether this was a queue. It was but it was moving forward rapidly. On arrival at the door, I was greeted by a lady who offered to guide me to the next step. Here, I was signed in at a desk by another team member who again offered to guide me to a further seated area. Neither of these team members had any experience of sighted guiding, so I simply asked both to take me by the right arm, my guide dog Annie is always on the left. Okay, some experience of how to guide blind people would have been fantastic, but when there are 70 million people in the UK all eventually going to be called for a COVID vaccination and many of them with so many different life experiences of varying health issues and conditions, one can’t expect all team members to cater for all. I was guided safely and that’s the main thing.
From this seated area, I was quickly called into a booth and given the vaccination by another member of staff. I was then handed a card to bring to my next appointment and two flyers. I enquired as to whether this information was available in other formats. The staff member was not aware of any. For me this is no big deal, I regularly use apps on my phone to scan and read documents for me, but for anyone with a visual impairment who is not so tech aware this is where the fabulous service offered fell short. Yes, like I’ve said before, it’s not always easy or possible to cater for absolutely everyone, but a supply of large print leaflets should not have been unattainable.
Following my vaccination, I was once again guided through the building and back to the door. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. So if there is anyone out there concerned about attending an appointment, please don’t be. Yes, you can take someone with you for sighted support if you need to but as I’ve proven that’s not necessary. Here’s hoping for a repeat of this service in 12 weeks time…