People with disabilities disproportionately hurt by coronavirus pandemic

“The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the fact that the most vulnerable in society are hurt first and more than the rest of the population."

Man in wheelchair, illustrative (photo credit: PICKPIK)
Man in wheelchair, illustrative
(photo credit: PICKPIK)
People with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey commissioned before the International Day of People with Disabilities on Thursday. The survey covered issues such as employment, health and emotional wellbeing.
Twice as many people with disabilities were put on unpaid leave as people without disabilities, the survey found. A third of people with disabilities required emotional support, and there were "major gaps" in food security, medical assistance and legal assistance.
“The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the fact that the most vulnerable in society are hurt first and more than the rest of the population," said Ruderman Family Foundation director Shira Ruderman. "The blow is evident in all fields – starting with healthcare, through employment and welfare assistance.
"In Israel of 2020, after so many achievements recorded here in the struggle for the rights of people with disabilities, this situation is unbearable," she said. "Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon us to assume responsibility, and bolster and preserve the important achievements and progress made in this regard."
 Avremi Torem, the commissioner for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said that the survey shows the unequal impact experienced by them, saying: "People with disabilities have found themselves left behind and their employment undermined – and only a small percentage felt solidarity and belonging to the community."
The survey found a 20% gap between reported employment of those with disabilities and those without. Some 17% of those with disabilities were furloughed with no pay compared to 8% of employees without disabilities. Workers with disabilities also reported feeling that their employers preferred to keep employees without disabilities.
The survey found that people with disabilities were more likely to avoid seeking healthcare during the pandemic (39%) compared to those without disabilities (25%). This difference was attributed to a heightened concern for getting infected with coronavirus among those with disabilities who may be at higher risk of infection.
More people with disability also reported a sense that doctors believed them less when they reported pain, according to the survey.
Nearly three times as many people with disabilities reported feelings of loneliness compared to those without disabilities (32% compared to 12%). And more than three times as many people with disabilities reported concerns about their own health during the pandemic (43% compared to 14%).
The survey also found a gap in assistance needed by those with disabilities, including finding that 15% of people with disabilities needed food assistance compared to 3% of people without them.
The survey includes the responses of 492 Israelis with disabilities and 502 Israelis without disabilities, and was sent out in September during the second lockdown.
The survey was conducted as part of a project that examines the attitudes toward people with disabilities in Israel called Urban Access Index 2020. It was conducted by the Hebrew University’s a-Chord center for Social Psychology for Social Change on behalf of the initiative’s four partners – The Ted Arison Family Foundation, The Ruderman Family Foundation, the Justice Ministry’s Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and JDC-Israel.


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