MANY disabled people are scared to go out in public again, says national disability charity Sense.
Half are concerned about their health, and more than a third are anxious because they’re not able to comply with safety measures, such as social distancing and wearing a face covering.
The charity says Covid-19 restrictions has led to increased isolation and loneliness, with almost two thirds of disabled people now experiencing ‘chronic loneliness’.
Two out of five disabled people say they have been unsupported by their local community.
The charity’s research is part of a new report, published for Loneliness Awareness Week, that calls on the Government and local communities to do more to support disabled people as we move out of lockdown.
Richard Kramer, Sense chief executive, said: “The severe impact of the pandemic has meant that many disabled people are now fearful and anxious about going out into public, and unless we support and prioritise them, isolation and loneliness will become a bigger problem.
“We must recognise that cuts to services and reduced support have contributed to the isolation that people are experiencing, and reinstate community services, while ensuring mental health support is available for those that need it.
“Our local communities also have an important role to play in ensuring that disabled people are not left behind as we move out of lockdown.
“The changes that we make to adapt to social distancing rules, such as increased outdoor dining, must be planned with the needs of disabled people in mind. Sadly, in recent weeks we have heard too many reports of people not being able to navigate the high street because pavements are blocked.
“Let’s show patience and understanding if someone is unable to wear a face covering, and provide that extra space to someone we pass on the pavement – it may really help to put them at ease.”
JANE MANLEY, 59, is blind. Due to a previous kidney transplant she has shielded over the past year and is now fearful to go back out with lockdown lifting.
She says: “Before, I was very independent and could do everything with my guide dog. Now, I have lost a lot of confidence. When I go out my heart rate is really high as I am so nervous.
“The physical spaces outside has changed so quickly.
“I bumped into a family who were eating outside. The family shouted at me even though I was with my guide dog. They shouted, ‘people like you shouldn’t be out’. This makes you feel unsure of yourself and knocks your confidence a lot.”
She says: “Since the first lockdown, I’ve lost all the independence I’ve worked so hard for. I’ve become very isolated and have lost my confidence.
“Lockdown restrictions are easing, but it’s still hugely challenging to go out, because it’s hard for me to socially distance.
“I can only see a short distance in front of me and can’t see how close I am to someone. People don’t give me space and it’s easy to bump into them. I get comments and it’s made to feel like it’s my fault. That’s why I don’t go out.”
The new report from Sense: ‘Left out of life: Inclusion in local communities’, includes recommendations on how we can make our communities, highstreets, venues and social activities more accessible and welcoming to disabled people. www.sense.org.uk/leftoutoflife