Latrea Wyche/ contributing Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our daily lives, but its impacts are especially acute for people living with disabilities. Emerging research on COVID-19 shows that the coronavirus pandemic has increased distress among high-risk groups. There are unique stressors and challenges that could worsen mental health for people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Behaviors such as physical distancing, as well as their social and economic impacts are also known to play a significant role in mental health consequences.
Research on past pandemics shows that disabled people find it harder to access critical medical supplies which can become even more challenging as resources become scarce. Some people with disabilities report higher levels of social isolation than their nondisabled counterparts (O’Sullivan & Bourgin, 2010). They may experience intensified feelings of loneliness in response to physical distancing measures which can lead to depression as well as other mental illnesses.
None of this is surprising and let me tell you why, people within this community already experience social isolation and feelings of loneliness just do to the mere fact that they are disabled so just imagine the stressors that are added to an already difficult situation. People with disabilities have always had more of a difficult time accessing the basic medical needs, now it even tougher because the supplies are so limited.
There is another piece to this puzzle that I have not seen or heard discussed, what about those group of people with cognitive -disabilities, that are accustomed to routines, it could be going the library at a certain time of the day or going to the mall a certain day of the week and now they can’t do that due to the COVID-19. Throughout this pandemic I have seen numerous news reports and articles about nursing homes and people becoming ill in these nursing homes due to COVID-19, but not once and have I heard any mention of group homes for people with disabilities, what do their numbers look like how are they dealing with this situation.
My real issue, communication, or lack thereof. Finding ways to get information has become increasingly difficult for people with disabilities due to the variables associated with being disabled. For example, disability is not just one category that is made up of various sub-categories. It is visually impaired and that blind (yes there is a difference). There is hearing impaired and the deaf (again, there a difference) and even. It is the responsibility of news sources to do their best to make the information as accessible as possible, to all this large subgroup of people, especially when information is changing quickly. As a visually and hearing-impaired person this something that I had to struggle with firsthand. Keeping all of us informed is key to the COVID-19 public health response, but the information is not always accessible to the disabled community, leaving us sidelined. That is not right nor is it fair, we deserve access to what going on just like everyone else especially if it directly impacts our health.
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