The Impact of the Pandemic on Disabled People
There is no doubt that the pandemic has provided a trying time for everyone, however throughout the last year it is clear that disabled people have been hit the hardest by the global crisis. In many ways the crisis has exacerbated the existing barriers that are faced by disabled people, as well as having exposed new issues. These issues range from access to food and other essentials, facing abuse over mask rules, and accessing information. These issues can increase the sense of anxiety surrounding the pandemic.
Given the lack of priority for those considered medically vulnerable, many people with disabilities have struggled to get access to food because it is not safe to go out, however home delivery slots are often booked up for weeks, if not an entire month in advance. Many people are having to ask relatives or friends to shop for them and drop groceries off at the door. Whilst many shops put in place specific hours for the elderly or disabled, this does not help those who are unable to go out to shop, whether that’s for mobility reasons or fear for their safety.
Disabled people are also frequently finding that a lot of information provided about how to look after one’s physical and mental health is not accessible or practical for them. Various news and government websites have issued many different articles and pieces of advice on how to stay fit and protect one’s mental health during this trying time. The problem is that much of the advice about looking after one’s mental health involves exercise, whilst the exercise recommended consists of things like daily walks. This is not accessible or practical for many disabled people, especially at present. Many are calling for the information provided to take their needs into consideration also.
With the rules on wearing masks not entirely clear when considering who is, and isn’t exempt, many disabled people find they are facing verbal abuse from other shoppers when out for not wearing a mask. Despite not having to wear them if medically exempt, many people are finding that they do so anyway to avoid the confrontation they face, meaning lack of awareness is forcing people to chose between facing confrontation or extreme discomfort or pain by wearing the mask.
Disabled people are increasingly reporting feeling as though their needs have not been met through the pandemic, resulting in higher levels of anxiety and stress than in the general population. Whilst 70% of the general population report feeling anxiety or fear about their health and the pandemic, this number is c. 80% of the disabled population. It is important to ensure that we are aware of the struggles members of our community face so that we can better support them.