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Unveiling Resilience: Living With a Disability Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

The shock was great for humanity—everything seized for some time, and the abrupt realization of putting our lives on halt left us with a recurrent thought: What will become of our lives now? How do we carry on through this?  


Although these feelings took the world by surprise, certain individuals were no strangers to the experience of a life-changing event. Their resilience had been tested repeatedly since developing a disability. Yet, once again they had to face the uncertainty that lay ahead when the life they had struggled to adapt to was put on halt during the pandemic. With the number of changes that occurred following the quarantine, individuals with disabilities faced multiple barriers to their daily lives and well-being, some of which are outlined in this article. The everyday difficulties experienced by individuals with a disability were magnified and brought to the forefront during the pandemic. 


Unemployment and Financial Need  

The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant changes to the economic capacity of families worldwide. Dealing with unemployment and financial aid issues, the average household income was significantly reduced. This challenge had a greater impact on families with members with disabilities. These members tend to have fewer resources and lower employment rates as well as increased costs of living and health care. They also have to depend on caregivers and social support networks to fulfill basic needs. Therefore, with the lockdown, the already limited resources that disabled individuals had access to, became disrupted.

Not only was it difficult for the members with disabilities to work, but their family attendants most often chose to forgo work and remain in the care of that member. In cases where the caregiver or member with a disability was employed, these jobs usually lacked financial security and protection, leaving them astray when job restrictions were put in place.  


The Lack of Resources During the Pandemic – Healthcare System Halt:  

Individuals with disabilities already face a plethora of barriers to accessing healthcare, and the quarantine intensified such challenges. With the increased restrictions, multiple services such as rehabilitation centers, therapy sessions, and assistive devices, were more challenging to access. Those with disabilities faced uncertainty and longer wait times to obtain the resources they needed, which contributed to their deteriorating health.  


In addition, inappropriate implementation of prevention protocols led many long-term care homes to suffer the consequences. For example, the long-term care home, Orchard Villa in Pickering, ON, faced challenges with providing proper care to the residents due to overcrowding and a shortage of staff and equipment. Ultimately, the difficult situation led to the death of more than 70 residents and 155 others infected with COVID-19.  



Mental Health and Disability During the Pandemic  

Many people experienced challenges with their mental health during the pandemic as the stress and isolation became overwhelming. The grief of losing loved ones to COVID-19 and losing our jobs and independence had significant impacts on everyone’s well-being. People with disabilities face the additional stress of depending on an attendant or caregiver who could be at risk of acquiring COVID-19. This meant it was out of their control who their attendant exposed themselves to and how well they followed prevention protocols. If the attendant became sick, the infection could be transmitted to the individual they cared for.  


The isolation of not having visitors in their care homes also deteriorated the mental well-being of individuals with a disability. COVID19 restrictions reduced the size of support networks available for people with disabilities. This increased the rates of depression, anxiety, and other negative mental states in the population of disabled individuals. 


Lack of Research on Disabled Individuals and Their Experience During the COVID-19 Pandemic


During the pandemic, the primary focus revolved around vaccines and the experiences of able-bodied individuals. However, there remained a large gap in investigating vulnerable populations such as those with a disability. Even now, there is still a need for more information on the impact that the pandemic had on communities with disabilities.  


Individuals With Disabilities Are Overcoming the Challenge Of the COVID-19 Pandemic:  


Recent research states that people with disabilities have shown high rates of recovery from the setbacks of the pandemic and have exceeded employment levels before the lockdown. Those in the disabled community have been taking advantage of new job opportunities to improve their income status.   

Although individuals with disabilities faced hardships following the COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to display resilience against adversity.  

As we move forward, it is essential to continue advocating for the rights and needs of individuals with disabilities, ensuring they have equal access to resources, support, and opportunities. In the wake of the pandemic, let us draw inspiration from the resilience of individuals with disabilities and work together to create a brighter, more inclusive future for all.  



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