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Pandemics Hit People with Disabilities Hard

Published: 06.05.2020
COVID-19 - IAPB CEO Updated

Pandemics rarely affect all people in a uniform way. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is likely to disproportionately affect these people living with disabilities, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries, where 80% of people living with disabilities reside, and capacity to respond to COVID-19 is limited.

Measures such as physical distancing or self-isolation may be more difficult for people with vision impairment as they often rely on assistance for navigation by touch. It is difficult to navigate without sensory cues and social distancing rule has made it more difficult to use touch. According to BBC, CNN and The Washington Post, living as a blind person during this pandemic threatens not only their safety but also raises anxiety. This poses a threat into their daily lives.

In the face of a surge in cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), physicians and health systems worldwide are racing to adopt virtualized treatment approaches. This sets a barrier for people with a vision impairment (VI) as most of the new technologies are not accessible and inclusive. Moreover, there might be inequities in access to public health messaging. All communication should be disseminated in accessible formats, through mass and digital media channels. Many organizations including World Blind Union, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), Blind Veterans UK, Vision Australia and The Voice of Blind and Partially sighted people in Europe, released COVID pandemic pack, which offers most up-to-dated information and advice.

In addition, the unemployment rates will rise substantially and weakened welfare safety nets further threaten health and social insecurity. Approximately 44% of the U.S. population with a visual impairment is employed, while 10% of people with a VI are unemployed. The lowest employment rate, and highest unemployment rate, were recorded following the great recession, and these rates have been improving since 2012. This pandemic has a bigger economic impact than the great recession and hence the figure will dramatically decrease.