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Hampshire develops safety protocol for visually-impaired

A protocol to improve the safety of visually-impaired people looks set to be rolled out across the country.

Hampshire Constabulary is working with other forces to share its Visual Impairment Protocol (VIP) that protects the security of blind or partially-sighted people who are in contact with the police.

When a visually-impaired person calls 101 or 999 and needs a visit from a police officer, they tell the call handler they have an impairment and agree a password. When the officer visits the address, they must provide the password before they are given access to the property.

The idea is the brainchild of Tina Snow after she experienced a knock on the door from a police officer.

She is fully blind and as the officer did not have anything other than a warrant card she had to decide whether to trust him or not.

She said: “Last year I had a police officer call at my door. He was making enquiries after an attempted break-in at a neighbouring property. Unfortunately he did not have any braille ID on him.

“I let him in, and I shouldn’t have because I was taking a huge risk, as he could have been anybody.”

The force’s accessibility team worked with her to develop the idea and then shared its solution with local charities Sight for Wight, Southampton Sight, and Open Sight to introduce the protocol.

And to help raise awareness, the force’s Assistant Chief Constable has recorded a series of audio messages, including a question and answer interview.

Assistant Chief Constable Craig Dibdin, Force Lead for Disability, said: “When we were contacted by Tina about the circumstances she found herself in, we were quite rightly asked what we can do, or what we already do, to safeguard people in Tina’s position.

“When a police officer knocks on the door of a person with a sight impairment, or severe sight impairment, how does that person satisfy themselves that they are indeed speaking to a police officer?”

West Yorkshire Police and Thames Valley Police have already adopted the protocol and others look set to follow.

ACC Dibden added: “We were absolutely delighted that she was willing to work with us to help us find a solution.”

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