Loosening of lockdown: Deafblind woman shares fears of people with disabilities as lockdown eases
A deafblind businesswoman warned people with disabilities may need help as normal life slowly begins to return.
Molly Watt says the coronavirus pandemic has had a severe impact on the lives of people with disabilities and that many will face a lot of stress and anxiety as they emerge from their protection and isolation.
She is working with the disability charity Sense to raise awareness of the hardships many people with disabilities face as the country emerges from lockdown.
READ MORE: Millions of people will have to wait for a free bus pass as the rules change
Molly, who is from Maidenhead, suffers from Usher syndrome, a condition that causes progressive loss of sight and hearing. This means she can’t see well enough to comply with social distancing rules and would have trouble on public transport.
She said: “I think there are mixed feelings.
“There will be a lot of anxiety around this.
“I, and many other people with disabilities, will need to regain my confidence once things start to come back.
“For example, it will be quite intimidating for a lot of people to start using public transport again.”
She added: “Since I am deafblind, there is no way I can keep the distance of two meters from people.
“I have to trust other people to do it, so things like going shopping could get quite intimidating for people.
“I know a lot of people avoid it, either by getting people to go or by doing it online.
“People with disabilities tend to get used to isolation and it will take some time to get out of it.”
The coronavirus has had a shocking impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Six in ten deaths are of people with disabilities, according to data from the Office of National Statistics.
Many people with disabilities have had to protect themselves for months and those classified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) continue to protect themselves, despite an 85% vaccination rate among this group.
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Sense research shows people with disabilities are concerned about health, cuts to social care, and fear of not being able to comply with social distancing measures.
Isolation and loneliness have also skyrocketed, with 61% of respondents describing themselves as “chronically lonely”.
The association interviewed more than 1,000 people. More than half said they were afraid to go out in public because of health concerns and feeling unsafe.
And 39% of people said they were anxious because they couldn’t comply with safety measures, like social distancing or wearing a mask.
Regain your independence and how you can help
Molly, who is 26 and runs a company that works to make websites more user-friendly for blind and deaf people, added: “I wonder how long it will take for me to feel confident enough to be as independent as I am. ‘before the pandemic.
“It took me many years to get to where I was before Covid. I can’t afford to spend years building it – I need to work. I need to see my friends, my family.
“But will I be able to cope, mentally? Honestly, I don’t know how long it will take this time around.”
She said her advice for people would be to be considerate and open-minded towards people with disabilities and ask them if they need help.
Richard Kramer, Managing Director of Sense, added: “The severe impact of the pandemic has meant that many people with disabilities are now afraid and anxious to go out in public, and unless we support and prioritize them, l isolation and loneliness will become a bigger problem.
“We need to recognize that cuts in services and reduced support have contributed to the isolation that people experience and re-establish community services, while ensuring that mental health supports are available to those in need.
“Our local communities also have an important role to play in ensuring that people with disabilities are not left behind when we come out of lockdown.
“The changes we make to accommodate social distancing rules, such as increasing al fresco dining, must be planned with the needs of people with disabilities in mind. Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have heard too many reports that people could not move on the main street because the sidewalks were blocked.
“Let’s be patient and understanding if someone is unable to wear a face covering, and give that extra space to someone we pass on the sidewalk – it can really help put them at ease. “