Canadian Council of the Blind’s COVID-19 Impact Study Reveals Disturbing Reality for Those Canadians Living with Vision Loss

A magnification of the Covid-19 virus.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 6, 2020 – Ottawa, ON – Louise Gillis, National President of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB), today released the findings of the CCB’s recent Survey on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadians Who Are Blind, Deaf-Blind, and Partially-Sighted, which was conducted from April 7th to 14th.

The report’s objective was to provide recommendations to our federal, provincial, and municipal governments in order to assist them in creating policies to support those living with vision loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey received a robust sample of 572 responses, with respondents representing all provinces. The results paint a disturbing picture of the experience of Canada’s vision loss community during this crisis.

Speaking from her home in Nova Scotia, Gillis spoke of the need for government to recognize the circumstances presently impacting all Canadians with disabilities, but specifically the over 1,560,000 Canadians living with vision loss. “The vision loss community was too often marginalized and already socially and economically depressed prior to the arrival of the pandemic,” said Gillis, noting that, “the present situation has only served to magnify those barriers and obstacles.”

Key results of the study showed high levels of stress in the vision loss community. Respondents are very concerned about social distancing – they’re unable to see how far they are from others and are concerned that others don’t realize that they have vision loss and tend to come too close. Respondents feel unsafe when going out.

Those living with vision loss are particularly concerned that the effect of the added stress from the pandemic on their mental health may cause them to become overwhelmed.

Survey respondents are stressed about their inability to access a doctor or health care practitioner and to meet their financial obligations, and about their ability to maintain their present standard of living. They’re further stressed due to their already-fragile economic status.

Respondents also expressed concern about having transportation and finding someone to accompany them should they have to go to the doctor or hospital.

Shopping is a concern as plexiglass shields make it difficult to negotiate payment and those with seeing disabilities are uncomfortable interacting with staff. About half of the respondents indicated that they had a personal care worker entering their home, about half of whom weren’t wearing proper personal protective equipment.

Respondents are concerned that when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, they’ll discover that their job no longer exists. Many who were asked to work from home have discovered that they don’t have the proper accessible devices and technology necessary to do their jobs from home, and that their employers have refused to provide or fund them.

The survey succeeded at identifying the challenges confronting those living with vision loss during the COVID-19 crisis. As Respondent 211 commented, “What’s affecting my mental health is this prolonged and extreme isolation. As a blind person, I already live a fairly limited life when referring to freedom of movement and independence and now even that small wedge of my active life has been completely eradicated.” It’s clear that the vision loss community is being heavily impacted by the pandemic. It’s further evident that there’s a need for immediate action from all levels of government to provide support and solutions to help those living with vision loss get through these stressful times. The CCB’s resulting report includes detailed recommendations for all levels of government to consider.

“We must ensure that those with disabilities aren’t left behind and that they have the urgent support they need,” said Gillis. “Leadership must come from the top down, and therefore we’re counting on the federal government to take the lead role in providing the guidance and financial support to provinces to make sure that all Canadians with disabilities, and especially those with vision loss, have access to the needed programs and solutions.”

The Survey Report on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadians Who Are Blind, Deaf-Blind, and Partially-Sighted is available on the CCB’s website and is fully accessible.

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT:

Michael Baillargeon, CCB Senior Advisor, Government Relations and Special Projects, ambaillargeon@rogers.com, 416-651-2102

ABOUT THE CCB

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The CCB is the Voice of the Blind™ in Canada. Founded 75 years ago in 1944 by returning blind veterans and schools of the blind, the CCB is a membership-based registered charity that brings together Canadians who are blind, living with vision loss, or deaf-blind through chapters within their own local communities that provide the opportunity to share common interests and social activities.

The CCB works tirelessly to improve the quality of life of people with vision loss through advocacy and its dedication to building public awareness, improving the well-being of people with seeing disabilities, and promoting and providing a better understanding of, and solutions for, the barriers faced by those living with vision loss, all while promoting the fact that a lack of sight is not a lack of vision.

The CCB is proud of these efforts to change what it means to be blind, and of its success in partnering and building relationships with other national and international organizations of and for the blind. Most importantly, the CCB is proud of its leadership role through initiatives that call for access to accessible, assistive technology, the provision of the very best in available medical treatments, and the fostering of patients’ rights, all while recognizing that blindness and vision loss are avoidable.

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