Charity campaigns: Guide Dogs ‘Be There’ campaign

Bringing light to big issues with small funding pots part 4

Charity campaigns: Guide Dogs ‘Be There’ campaign

18th September 2020

By Philippa Jolliffe

During lockdown, we’ve all had to adapt fast to a new normal. Social distancing measures have transformed our public spaces. 

But what if you can’t see people two metres away, or read signs directing you round a new one-way system in the supermarket?

Guide Dogs’ ‘Be There’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the difficulties that people with sight loss are facing during and after lockdown, and encourage sighted people to offer assistance. 

In this blog, the final part of our series examining great charity campaigns with small funding pots, we take a look at what it means to ‘Be There’ for people with sight loss.

Facts and figures

The basis for the campaign is some hard-hitting statistics. 

According to research carried out for the charity, just 22% of the public would feel “completely comfortable” offering to help someone with sight loss while social distancing is in place.

Reasons given included not knowing how to help from two metres away (cited by 50%) and being concerned about making physical contact (37%).

The survey also found that while 78% of UK adults understood why people with sight loss faced additional challenges while social distancing, 65% had not considered it before taking the survey. 

No wonder that, according to a separate Guide Dogs survey, 84% of people with sight loss were concerned about their ability to social distance while using public transport, and 61% were worried they would not be able to access support while doing so. 

This demonstrates why awareness raising is so vital – and suggests there is a receptive audience for the ‘Be There’ campaign.

‘Keep your distance – but don’t disappear’

The campaign has three simple and memorable key messages for sighted people who want to help out. 

1. “Keep your distance – but don’t disappear.”
The campaign seeks to raise awareness that when it comes to social distancing, the onus is on sighted people to make space. Guide dogs have not been trained to socially distance, so won’t lead their owner out of the way. Don’t be offended or alarmed – just step to one side.

2.“Say hello and offer your help.”
You may not know what you can do to help, but it could be something very simple such as letting a blind person know where a supermarket queue ends. People with sight loss cannot read the signs or see the other visual cues that guide us around, so your verbal information could be crucial.

3.“Describe the scene.”
The post-Covid world is unfamiliar, and can be bewildering to all of us. Those with sight loss cannot see a queue outside a shop, for example, so may end up isolated and confused. By describing the scene, you help them understand and navigate their way around this new environment. 

The campaign also directed people to the Guide Dogs’ website for further information about assisting visually impaired people during Covid-19. 

Human interest

‘Be There’ is fronted by several guide dog owners, each offering their own perspective and giving the campaign a strong human interest angle. 

Their stories have been picked up by their local and regional media and disability magazines, among other media outlets. They’ve also been featured on Guide Dogs’ own lively social media channels

One is Louise Jenkins from Ceredigion, a mental health service manager who has worked throughout the pandemic. She is featured in the Tivyside Advertiser talking about the occasions she has encountered hostility for failing to keep a two-metre distance. 

“It makes you feel embarrassed to go out and knocks your confidence. I had not realised how little I was going out, but people are so rude it is stopping me from doing things. Luckily our village shop is brilliant.”

At Connect Assist, we always admire organisations with a positive, problem-solving approach. This campaign stays true to those principles, and we believe it will change attitudes and make a difference. 


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