COVID-19 made life harder for Islanders with disabilities in 2021

·3 min read
COVID-19 made life harder for Islanders with disabilities in 2021

Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic through 2021 has made daily life harder for many Islanders.

For people with disabilities, those challenges are exacerbated, said the executive director of ResourceAbilities.

"The number one barrier that we see for people with disabilities is social and economic isolation," said Marcia Carroll. "And we saw COVID even compound that."

ResourceAbilities, which changed its name in November from the P.E.I. Council for People with Disabilities, works to make it possible for people living with physical disabilities to participate in all aspects of Island society.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

Beyond social isolation, Carroll said the pandemic led to some decision-making by people in power that has had adverse effects on people with disabilities.

One example has to do with traffic flow in businesses and other public spaces.

"Accessible doorways were turned into one-way. So if you can only get into a building, or only out of a building, that's not accessible," said Carroll.

Hearing-impaired Islanders at a disadvantage

For people with hearing impairments, Carroll pointed out it took the provincial government "a long time" to get sign language interpreters at their COVID-19 health briefings.

"People who have hearing impairments and use sign language, it is their first language," she said.

"It's how they speak to their community members, and they should have been able to get very pertinent information that affects their lives in their first language, like the rest of Island citizens."

Despite those challenges, or maybe because of them, Carroll said people living with disabilities "are the most creative and innovative people that I've ever met because they navigate a world that's not designed for them."

"So from the time they wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night, they're problem solving."

One thing that COVID has really told us is that government can actually move fast when it wants to. — Marcia Carroll

There are about 30,000 Islanders who have disclosed they live with a physical disability, said Carroll.

She said the group's name change came about partly through the desire of its younger members.

"Over the last number of years we've been holding youth symposiums, and our younger membership clearly told us that they felt our name didn't reflect how they saw themselves," said Carroll.

"Our membership sees themselves as people of varied different levels of ability and also people of great levels of ability. So we wanted our name to reflect that."

Want to see basic guaranteed income

Carroll said in 2022, ResourceAbilities will continue to lobby the provincial government for a basic income guarantee.

"One thing that COVID has really told us is that government can actually move fast when it wants to," she said.

The fact that the federal government was able to roll out the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) so quickly means that "the money's there for a basic income guarantee."

The organization also plans to continue to train people in its new equity, diversity and inclusion training program.

"We're in the third step of the process where we're going to train the trainers and have that fan out across the Island."

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