While the global pandemic is difficult for everyone, we all know that people with disabilities sometimes face unique challenges the general public may not be aware of. A section of our new content series, “Real People, Real Stories,” is devoted to highlighting the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted real people with disabilities. We hope to drive home the importance of an accessible internet during a time when it’s an absolute necessity for everyone.
Isabel Holdsworth, Accessibility Engineer at TPGi.
What challenges did you face before the COVID-19 outbreak?
I’m blind, and find shopping can be quite challenging. Being unable to drive, I tend to have my big shopping delivered online once or twice a week, and pop out for bits and pieces I might need between times or something homemade from my local butcher or baker.
What new challenges are you currently facing?
I can’t get an online shopping slot at all. Apparently I should have registered as a vulnerable person with my local supermarket, but can’t do so now as their phone line is constantly busy. I’ve gone there myself a few times, but it’s difficult to follow the two-metre social distancing rule when you can’t see how far away the person in front of you is. Yesterday there was a massive queue outside as numbers in the store are being kept to a minimum, and I couldn’t tell when the person in front of me moved forward. Sometimes people are great and will let me know, other times not, and yesterday wasn’t a good day. So I gave up and went home feeling like a failure. Also, I need help to find what I need, which used to involve being guided around the store by a member of staff. But holding someone’s arm after they’ve perhaps coughed into their elbow isn’t something I (nor probably they) want to do.
How are you dealing with these new challenges?
I was visiting my brother in Ireland when we were locked down, and he suggested I stay with him until the situation improves. He is high-risk though, so I’m staying indoors as much as possible, only going out about once a week for the big grocery shop, and I’m visiting local shops in-between times.
I’ve done the supermarket run a couple of times, but as I mentioned above I find it pretty stressful. And I can’t buy too much as being unable to drive, I need to carry it home.
“I believe blind people are at more risk as we rely so heavily on our sense of touch. Even if I’m using a contactless card, I need to touch the machine so as to know where to hold the card. I need to touch the counter so as to find my goods and bag them up. I can’t always tell when I’m standing or walking too close to other people. I’m trying hard to do the social distancing thing, but it’s not always possible.”
If you’re interested in sharing your own story for our “Real People, Real Stories” series, tweet at us at @paciellogroup.