During the COVID-19 outbreak, social distancing measures have been introduced to try and combat the virus. However, it is still important to stay connected to the people around us. For people with a disability, this can be extra challenging during this time.
COVID-19 is interrupting life as we know it and doesn't just affect day-to-day life, it has the potential to impact the mental health of the whole community.
The World Health Organisation recommends that during any period of social isolation, you “stay connected and maintain your social networks” to combat loneliness and to look after yourself during social isolation. But this may be more challenging for people with disability.
Kathie Elliot a spokesperson from Blind Citizens Australia says, “During this period of uncertainty and physical distancing, social isolation is impacting on everyone in a variety of ways.
“For someone who is blind or vision impaired, this is amplified by concerns around restrictions on sighted guides, limited interaction with support workers at times and a lack of specific and accessible information that relates to people who are blind or vision impaired during the crisis,” she adds.
Remaining a part of the community by using online tools is one way to combat social isolation. Depending on the type of disability, the way someone stays connected and the challenges they face may be different.
Ms Elliot says, “It is particularly difficult when people live alone and have family interstate who are unable to visit due to border restrictions, or are trying to navigate the new rules around moving around.”
Organisations in Australia are introducing or utilising existing online tools including, virtual meetups and forums to help people stay connected during COVID-19. Examples of this include online groups such as Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Community and Disability and Chronic Illness COVID-19 Information.
Ms Elliot says that the launch of BCA’s own online Happy Hour for members and non-members has been a success. BCA’s Happy Hour is a daily virtual meetup via any device, be it phone, tablet or computer.
“Through the daily Happy Hours we hope to provide a safe, accessible way for our community to come together and chat about the issues that are affecting them as well as sharing new discoveries, and most importantly reduce some of the loneliness," she adds.
Happy Hour is just one of the ways to help people with a disability combat loneliness and social isolation during COVID-19.
There are many different things you are able to stay connected with friends, families, carers and other loved ones.
Saying connected could mean:
Having a virtual movie night with friends or family.
Having an online party or games night.
Thinking about how you can interact with others without putting your health (or theirs) at risk. Can you speak to your neighbours from over a fence?
Using Skype, Zoom, or other online tools to connect via video.
Making a phone call or sending a text message to check in with people.
Join a Facebook group.
You can also find out more about COVID-19 and the disability sector on our dedicated coronavirus information page.
Is there something you would like to know about COVID-19 and disability? Tell us in the comments below.