A federally commissioned report by a University of Guelph professor says the pandemic has made life worse for many people with disabilities.
“People with disabilities were largely invisible and continue to be invisible in the pandemic,” said Deborah Stienstra, the report’s author and director of the University of Guelph Live Work Well Research Centre.
Stienstra said during her research some people told her they were being encouraged to explore assisted suicide.
“That’s not something we really want to hear from people, right? That you don’t have the supports necessary to continue to live, let alone live well during a pandemic,” she said.
The report found 31 per cent of people aged 15 to 64 with long term conditions or disabilities reported their overall household income decreased during the pandemic.
According to the report, the pandemic has had an even more severe impact on marginalized groups of people with disabilities like racialized people, Indigenous people, women, LGBTQ2+ individuals and those living in remote rural regions.
According to Edward Faruzel, executive director of Kitchener Waterloo AccessAbility, the pandemic has caused many people with disabilities to feel like their issues are less important than others.
“Maybe not neglected, but definitely put on the back burner,” Faruzel said.
Faruzel recommends anyone who knows someone with a disability be sure to check in on them to try and help people feel less isolated during this time.
The organization is doing virtual events to try and keep people connected, while also exploring other options.
“We’re trying to keep the moral and the spirits up of our members,” Faruzel said.
Kitchener resident Jay Oswald, a legally blind man who also uses a wheelchair can’t participate in the Zoom meetings.
“I’m unable to use a computer due to my disability, which isolates me even more,” Oswald said.
Oswald said he requires help from a building staff member whenever he wants to leave the property. He said wearing a mask properly and proving his vaccination status has become a challenge.
“Every time I want to go do something I’m feeling like second guessed, like a second class citizen,” Oswald said. “It makes my life very challenging.”
The University of Guelph report calls for better income supports and for inclusion of people with disabilities in decision-making about needs and services, including during emergencies.