[NFBOH-Cleveland] Coronavirus restrictions put extra burden on the blind community: by ABC News

Suzanne Turner smturner.234 at gmail.com
Sun Mar 22 01:37:52 UTC 2020


Coronavirus restrictions put extra burden on the blind community:



Limited transportation access and accessibility options are major hurdles.


 <https://abcnews.go.com/author/ivan_pereira> Ivan Pereira


‎March 20‎,


The novel coronavirus <https://abcnews.go.com/health/coronavirus>  outbreak
has forced millions of people around the world to limit what and who they
touch and stay in place for the time being -- all methods to try to tamp
down on the spread of the virus in the absence of a vaccine or treatment. 

But for the blind community, in particular, these restrictions create
additional obstacles that may contribute to their already vulnerable state,
experts said. 

Working and studying from home, shopping and even a recreational walk
outside isn’t always easy for blind persons because companies and leaders
haven’t put immediate thought into accessibility for disabled people, said
Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, a
non-profit advocacy group. 

"We are seeing a concern that blind people will be left behind in the
general anxiety that everyone else faces," Danielsen, who is blind, told ABC
News. "We have the same anxieties everyone else has about the coronavirus,
but they can be amplified in times like this." 

What to know about Coronavirus:

*  How it started and how to protect yourself:
Coronavirus explained 

*  What to do if you have symptoms:
Coronavirus symptoms

*  Tracking the spread in the US and Worldwide:
y?id=69415591> Coronavirus map

Nearly 7.6 million Americans over 16 years old have a visual impairment,
according to the NFB
nd-community-experts/nfb.org/resources/blindness-statistics> , which used
census data from 2016. The majority of them, about 4 million, are under 65,
according to the data.

STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Experts said the biggest challenge for the blind community is
transportation. Many cities have cut back on their bus and train lines.
Taxis and rideshare options, like Lyft and Uber, are limiting pickups,
according to Danielsen. 

Stacy Cervenka, who is blind and the director of public policy for the
American Foundation for the Blind, a non-profit that pushes for greater
accessibility, said this is most problematic for blind persons who live by

"Without Uber or Lyft, we’re in a bind, especially in suburban and rural
communities where everything is far away," she told ABC News. 

Cervenka said the lack of transportation would hinder any blind person who
seeks to get tested for the coronavirus, as many states have opted for
drive-thru testing.

-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/story?id=69555759> MORE: What companies are doing
to protect vulnerable hourly workers amid coronavirus outbreak

Cervenka added that while it is easier for companies and schools to switch
over to video learning and working, and there are apps like Zoom that have
good accessibility options for visually impaired users, not every remote
working option is feasible. 

Some schools may not have the ability to provide homework sheets and other
reading materials for their blind students, she said. Cervenka added that
classes tailored for the blind community, such as learning to walk with a
cane and independent living training, have been suspended in schools across
the nation. 

"This is not something that students can learn remotely," she said.

STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

The health recommendations to practice social distancing and touching
haven’t had too much of an effect on the community so far, according to
Cervenka. Canes, guide dogs and other vision aids are already effective with
keeping space between people and avoiding any obstacles. 

When it comes to touching, Cervenka said latex surgical gloves protect
surfaces that need touching, such as braille signs on doors and elevators,
without sacrificing tactility. 

"There are ways that one can take precaution," she said.

STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Danielsen said shopping in a store is more complicated for blind customers.
Normally, store workers would be available to assist finding and taking an
item off a shelf, but those employees may be too overwhelmed with the extra
crowds to help. 

"There may be a struggle to get any assistance there," he said.

 <https://abcnews.go.com/WNN/video/grocery-stores-measures-69636866> MORE:
Grocery stores take new measures

Clark Rachfal, director of advocacy and governmental affairs for the
American Council for the Blind, said one of the biggest risks for the blind
community during the outbreak is COVID-19 itself. The biggest causes of
blindness are complications from ailments such as diabetes and cancer, and
those people are at high risk for contracting the disease, according to
Rachfal, who is visually impaired. 

"Blindness also affects more elderly people as well, and they too are more
susceptible," he told ABC News. 

Rachfal said he is concerned that some medical offices and health care
systems aren’t equipped well to handle blind patients who may have flu-like
symptoms. Some offices may not have patient portals with accessibility
options, he said.

-person/story?id=69625069> MORE: Therapists face challenges as coronavirus
limits in-person help

Rachfal added that the outbreak would have detrimental mental health
consequences for blind persons who are elderly and live alone. Some of them
don’t have access to new technologies, like delivery apps, and have limited
in-person contact with their friends and family, according to Rachfal. 

He said the best thing that people can do to help those vulnerable blind
persons is to reach out and ask if they need any assistance. 

"People can help with a phone call or even help deliver goods to their
homes," he said. "You can leave it at their doorstep. You don’t need to be
in close contact with them."






National Federation of the Blind of Ohio (NFBO)

Suzanne Turner, Ohio Affiliate Vice President

Cleveland Chapter, President

(216) 990-6199


Please click on the links below to learn more about the organization


The Ohio Affiliate



“Live the life you want” featuring, National President, Mark Riccobono



Visit and take a moment to like our Facebook Page!



The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the
characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the
expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles
between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want;
blindness is not what holds you back.


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