Many people with intellectual disabilities have no access to day services, have had to give up work and are isolated from family and friends as a result of COVID-19, a new study has found.
This unique study was carried out by three people with disabilities, with support from TU Dublin and Inclusion Ireland. As part of it, 11 participants were interviewed via Zoom about a range of topics, such as work, supports and independence.
The study found that all 11 participants had to stop working as a result of COVID-19. Most of them worked in centres and services for people with disabilities and this work included helping other service users, cooking and serving in coffee shops.
When it came to their social life, many of the participants were isolated from their extended families and friends and this made them anxious and fearful. They also missed the social interaction with people in work and people in day services.
While some felt that their independence had been badly affected as they could no longer work or go out, some said their independence had increased. For example, some had learned how to do Zoom calls and online classes.
When it came to support, the participants had received different levels from their various services. However, they pointed out that some support staff in disability services had been reassigned to work in other areas during the pandemic.
Some received regular calls a few times a week, while others had little or no support.
When asked if they liked anything about the last few months, some said they liked being able to have a lie-on and learning how to use Zoom and do online classes.
When it came to their dislikes, many said they were unhappy about not being able to go to work or their day services, or out at all. One said she was sad because she did not have any reason to get up in the morning.
When asked what the hardest part of the COVID-19 pandemic has been, the most common answer was not being able to meet family and friends.
"I really miss all of my friends, to talk to them, and can't wait till it's all over to give them all a big hug," one participant said.
Most of those interviewed said that they got their information on COVID-19 from TV and radio news, and the internet, while some got it from Government booklets.
However, all participants strongly agreed that the Government needs to make COVID-19 information more accessible to them. It should be available in an easy-to-read format, with more images. They especially called for more picture-based information on how to use face masks properly.
"This report is fantastic, as the report and project were done and powered by people with disabilities," commented researcher and study author, Tomás Murphy.
A video showing some of the research in action is available here and the report, The Experiences of Adults with Intellectual Disabilities in Ireland During the Covid-19 Crisis, is available to view here.
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