People with disabilities face additional hardships during COVID-19 pandemic

CHATHAM COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- July is Disability Pride Month, a reminder that many of our fellow citizens deal with hurdles the majority of us do not.
"The pandemic required a lot of flexibility on our part," Chris Bell, the president of the North Carolina Council of the Blind, told ABC 11.

Bell, a Chatham County resident, is retired from a career as an attorney and knows a lot about the plight of those with all kinds of disabilities.

"I was involved in the writing of the Americans with Disabilities Act," he said

During the pandemic, Bell said he has been quite concerned about not only those who are visually impaired, but anyone with a disability because so many services were disrupted.

"Public transit was very difficult to get a ride and you didn't necessarily want to get a ride because you ran the risk of getting COVID," Bell said.
And then there was working from home. It was fairly easy for those who could afford the technology if it wasn't supplied by their employer, but not for many others.

"A lot of people with disabilities are poor, and are living on Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income, and they can't afford the technology," he said. "And so, that immediately put them behind the eight ball."

But Bell says there was an upside too.
To help battle isolation, which was already a problem for many with disabilities and made worse by the pandemic, the American Council of the Blind instituted a service known as community calls where people could call in via Zoom and discuss various topics or take classes on topics such as knitting and crocheting, or get access to assistive technology.

Bell said, "We've done thousands of them. And that's been a great benefit for people who are blind or low vision and it's brought us together and reduced isolation."

But there are many other people with disabilities who are still suffering the effects of severe isolation and other problems related to the pandemic.

During Disability Pride Month advocates ask that you keep our fellow citizens with disabilities top of mind and, if you know any of them, reach out.
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