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'A lonely, open-ended blur': How the pandemic impacts people with disabilities

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

adrianw@baylismedia.co.uk

A Maidenhead entrepreneur has spoken out about the struggles with isolation the pandemic has created for people with disabilities.

Molly Watt, 26, has Usher syndrome, a condition which causes gradual sight and hearing loss. She was born deaf and was diagnosed at the age of 12.

Molly is an accessibility consultant for her own company – but the pandemic has limited her connection to others through work.

“I’m very sad that lots of my work travelling has had to be postponed or cancelled and that I am unable to meet with my clients or colleagues,” she said.

“I am dependent on routine and structure and socialising helps to break up the week and get through it. It’s so important to connect with people, have a laugh and get a chance to relax.

“Now, it’s just a lonely, open-ended blur.”

Molly relies on public transport in her daily life and thinks improvements to services would help her to go out and meet more people.

She is also in favour of better community services and access to work and employment.

“When I feel optimistic, I think the world might become more accessible, and that life will improve for disabled people, because almost everyone is working from home and having to strategise to get by,” she said.

“Non-disabled people can now empathise more with how disabled people live on a daily basis.”

According to research by disability charity Sense, two thirds of disabled people are now chronically lonely – and 70 per cent of young disabled people.

This has led to the majority of disabled people believing that the Government should prioritise tackling mental health issues caused by the pandemic once the vaccination rollout is complete – in preference to the NHS, economy and education.

Richard Kramer, Sense chief executive, said: “Many disabled people were already experiencing high levels of social isolation and loneliness before the pandemic, and the last year has made the situation much worse, raising fears of a mental health crisis.

“Loneliness has disproportionally affected disabled people. Many disabled people told us how they don’t have support networks around them and feel cut off from their local community.

“Throughout the pandemic the needs of disabled people have been overlooked, and they have often felt forgotten.

“We can’t change what disabled people have experienced during the pandemic, but a more accessible society and a commitment to address loneliness can be its positive legacy,” he said.

Sense is calling on the public to sign its pledge, committing to help create a more accessible society. Visit sense.org.uk/LeftOutOfLife for information,

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