Pandemic Safety Measures for People who are Blind or Disabled

Monday, April 13, 2020
How To Care For Elderly Or Disabled Family Members During A Pandemic
COVID-19 is frightening, isolating and frustrating. In this unprecedented time, the mere act of being around other people poses a serious risk to our health especially to those who are elderly or disabled.  Thankfully, resources exist to support and provide health and safety services to those who are more at-risk to contracting COVID-19.
People with blindness or a disability oftentimes need more access to healthcare providers, services and information. During a pandemic, these groups may be unable to reach the support services they need due to transportation issues, disruption of personal support services and difficulties posed by social distancing.
 
Mutual Assistance Groups 
The good news is that many caring people in metro St. Louis and across the nation are taking positive action to help minimize barriers for people who are blind or disabled.
One way is to form a Mutual Assistance Group (MAG) of people to help each other and overcome social distancing. MAG benefits are security in numbers, shared knowledge and diversified personal support. It’s also great way to make new friends and help people who need it. Because we live in a digital communications world, MAG members must be skilled with personal computers and laptops; internet searching; mobile phones; social media channels such as Facebook; and “video chat” applications such as Face time and Skype. Experience with JAWS Screen Readers and reader technology for people who are visually impaired will be a bonus.

Here’s how to build the foundation of a successful MAG:
Recruit a “core leadership team” of friends or associates who share commitments to the disability community. Centralize leadership communications and then recruit MAG members. The search for MAG members should begin with family, friends, and neighbors, a Facebook social media group or perhaps a church group.
Your leadership team also should develop a mission statement and recruiting strategy.  Good sources of potential MAG members may include: Medical professionals, medics, firefighters, medical college students, veterinarians, and people in dental and optometry fields, Volunteer fire departments, Emergency response teams, Boy Scout, Red Cross or 4-H groups, or Local chapters of VFW or American Legion.

The more MAG members you have, the better things will be for everyone. MAG members can help replace pandemic fear and insecurity by:
  • Creating a Covid-19 Emergency Response Plan
  • Obtaining extra needed medications and supplies for extended quarantine
  • Maintaining contact information for family members, physicians, specialists, nursing services, attorneys and individuals with “power of attorney”
  • Gathering internet links and email addresses to health Information groups, resources and officials
  • Providing pandemic sanitation best methods and practices
  • Serving as liaison with home health corkers or caretakers
  • Ensuring that access to COVID-19 test facilities are fully accessible.
Build the network by collecting phone numbers. Use them to create MAG “pods” for group texting and links to online resources. If you do that, your MAG membership will grow. Service capabilities will expand.
Make a document for blind/disabled people to list their needs and a spreadsheet to identify people who want to donate time, money or merchandise.
Set up a Gmail address to handle general questions and to provide timely responses from a qualified MAG member. Start making homemade face masks to deal with local shortages.

Good Advice
The World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/) provides expert information and resource links for MAGs and other groups, including advice shown below:
  • Adopt ways to communicate that are understandable to people with intellectual, cognitive or psycho-social impairments.
  • Identify support resources for people with complex needs, particularly if isolated. Coordinate their care between health and social services, families and caregivers. Arrange telehealth conferences for people with any disability
  • Make sure that friends and family members you trust know information they would need should you become sick, such as your health insurance, medication, and the care needs of your dependent children, elderly parents or pets.
In times of anxiety, fear or uncertainty, helping people is rewarding. If you feel distant or lonely, go online to look around for a Mutual Assistance Group.  It can’t hurt to do that, and it will help do a lot of good if you join or start one.
Local charitable organizations:
Lighthouse for the Blind-St. Louis - 314 423 4333 – website https://lhbindustries.com/
St Louis Society For The Blind – (314) 968-9000 – website https://slsbvi.org/
Paraquad - (314) 289-4200 – website https://www.paraquad.org/
St. Louis Area Resource Directory - https://www.startherestl.org/disability.html
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