The COVID-19 pandemic has had tremendous effects on the entire Canadian population, but none more so than on those who experience disability. People with disabilities are not only more prone to contracting the disease, but they are also at serious risk of mental, social, and medical distress in the short- and long term.
Adam Spencer is the Founder of AbleDocs, a company based out of Oakville, Ontario, that is dedicated to digital document accessibility. His mission is to create a barrier free world for people with print disabilities and become an advocate for equal access for all people.
Spencer examines how people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by COVID and how they can ensure their ongoing health and safety during the pandemic.
Greater Medical Risks
People with disabilities have a more difficult time accessing medical supplies during a pandemic. In addition, people with disabilities are more likely to live in congregate facilities such as long-term care homes and group homes. These settings can be tinderboxes for COVID infection. Until the vaccine has received a better rollout in Canada, this risk remains a high area of concern for people with disabilities.
Mental Health Risks
One of the most severe risks faced by those with disabilities during the pandemic is mental health challenges. The effect of social isolation on mental health has been well-documented by scientific studies. According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University, a lack of social connection can heighten health risks like having an alcohol use disorder or smoking excessively.
“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Holt-Lunstad says.
The pandemic has caused rising levels of isolation and loneliness among many populations, not just those with disabilities, and the risk of serious mental health complications has grown significantly.
People with disabilities may feel more anxious about their ability to receive care given their social isolation. They may have difficulty accessing rides to medical appointments, which friends and family would normally provide. Ride-share programs have also been put on pause across the country to help solve this issue.
How Different Types of Disabilities are Affected by the Pandemic
Different types of disabilities are affected by the pandemic in different ways. People with print disabilities are more likely to need help navigating the Internet, especially when signing up for vaccine slots online.
People with mental disabilities need a great deal of support to deal with the pandemic and may have fears that friends and loved ones cannot allay when they are isolated due to COVID.
Elders who have a disability may have difficulty accessing medical appointments due to a lack of ride availability. When they cannot attend all of their appointments, it is more likely that their serious diseases will not be discovered until a later and less-treatable stage.
Making Life Better for Everyone
Adam Spencer’s company AbleDocs is dedicated to helping people who have a disability receive more of the services they need to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to scheduling doctor’s appointments and vaccine slots, people with disabilities need to connect with agencies and with their friends and families.
AbleDocs is dedicated to making a difference for people with disabilities, both in Canada and around the world. Helping them access vital services has been one of the most rewarding aspects of founding AbleDocs. Adam Spencer believes that his work has helped many people with disabilities remain independent and enhance their medical, social, and mental health. Its why throughout the pandemic, AbleDocs provided free remediation services to health information providers that exceeded $500,000 in services.
Adam Spencer is excited by the trend toward ensuring accessibility is a fundamental human right. People with disabilities have the right to access the information they need to lead independent, safe and healthy lives. COVID has underscored the need for digital accessibility since so much of the world has moved online since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.
Managing Health Risks for People with Disabilities
Understanding how to help people with disabilities navigate the Internet is AbleDocs’ specialty. Spencer and his company are prepared to help Canadians with visual and print disabilities make the most out of the available resources through the Internet.