The COVID-19 pandemic presents a wealth of changes, challenges, and anxiety for everyone. While it may feel like we are all helpless in slowing and stopping the spread of the deadly disease, social distancing has been effective in “flattening the curve” of infection, and relieving the pressure on the already strained health care system. In these times, it feels good to know the simple act of maintaining 6 feet of distance from others and staying home is helping those we care about, and those fighting the disease at the front lines.
For those who have a disability or have challenges with mobility, staying 6 feet away from others is difficult, if not impossible to follow. Personal care requires contact with other people, and the use of mobility devices in crowded areas is already often a challenge to navigate safely without the added challenge of maintaining distance from others. The following list contains some ideas for social distancing while using a wheelchair, but we would love to hear how you are keeping safe during this pandemic. Leave a comment below!
1. Have help to monitor distance from others in your blind spots.
Trying to navigate in tight spaces like hallways and stores is difficult enough, let alone when people aren’t respectful of the space you need to keep yourself and others healthy. One way to let people know they are getting too close is to use the Braze Mobility Blind Spot Sensor system. Braze systems can be set to customized distances, and auditory feedback can be activated at the flip of a switch. Before leaving the house, simply set your Braze System to a 6’ threshold, turn the audio on, and make sure people know when they are getting too close to your wheelchair, without having to turn around!
2. Avoid going out with your mobility device by staying in.
Where possible, use this time as an opportunity to leverage your community and stay home! Avoid the lines, fist-fights over toilet paper and general mayhem that is happening at the grocery stores. Ask friends to pick up the things you need and drop them at your doorstep. This also gives the added bonus of having a socially-distanced visit with your friends while they drop the items off! There are also lots of delivery services that can get you the things you need from the comfort of your own home. Just be sure to properly clean anything that gets delivered. If you are unable to clean things yourself, consider leaving a container of disinfecting wipes and clean gloves out for your delivery-folks to wipe them down with (and maybe an extra tip for them!)
3. Plan your trips out.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential stores often have times for people who have special considerations to shop at a quieter time. This is often in the mornings so if you are feeling like an early-bird give your local stores a call or an email and ask about what kind of considerations they have in place for shoppers that need some extra space or some assistance to maintain their social distance.
4. Foster a virtual social network.
One of the best parts of this time is that it has given me the chance to reconnect with friends that live far away. Apps like Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and HouseParty are great for making the social-distancing time feel like a remote-socialising time! Reach out to some old friends, maybe someone who moved away a while ago, and reconnect- you might just find a silver lining in the COVID-19 stormcloud!
5. Encourage anyone you are unable to socially distance from to follow all regulations.
We all have to work together during this time, and wherever you are not able to socially distance, you must rely on the people you interact with to keep themselves healthy. Having those who you do interact with follow guidelines is an important step in keeping yourself and them safe. Be sure to remind people who enter your home to follow the WHO and local health department guidelines for limiting the spread of the disease, such as wearing the proper personal protective equipment, following hand washing guidelines, and keeping a distance from others. Keeping yourself up to date with the recommendation from the WHO and other health departments is a great way to ensure that you are passing on the correct information to those around you!
All of us at Braze Mobility wish you all the best during this difficult time. Stay safe and healthy!Read More
All advice in this blog should not replace medical advice. Be sure to follow updates from the WHO and CDC/Health Canada for the most updated advice on COVID-19 management.
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the ability to go to stores, restaurants and other public places has been a welcome relief to many after months of isolation. Here in Ontario Canada, the opening of businesses has come with the requirement of all customers to wear a face mask or covering while inside the business (unless seated and eating). These laws are designed to keep everyone safe, while allowing a return to the lives that we have all been missing.
The Accessibility Challenges Of Using Face Masks
But, how do people with disabilities fit into these laws? The use of face masks may be a challenge for many people. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the people who may be limited in their ability to use a face mask includes:
- Someone who has low fine motor skills or spasticity in their upper body may find putting on or taking a mask off difficult
- Someone who relies on lip reading for communication may find it difficult to understand others while they are wearing a mask.
- Someone who uses a mouth-control for their wheelchair such as a sip-and-puff alternative joystick control would not be able to wear a mask while operating their chair.
- Someone who has speech impairment may not be understood while wearing a mask.
- Someone with autism may experience sensory overload when having a mask covering their face
- Someone with PTSD or claustrophobia may experience severe fear when wearing a mask
- Someone with COPD or other breathing difficulty
For all of these reasons and many more, people with disabilities may not be able to wear face masks in public. There is a requirement by the ADA to modify the rules around mask wearing to accommodate people with a disability. Some suggestions include:
- Allowing prompt curbside pickup from a safe social distance, using both telephone and internet orders
- Allowing loose-fitting face coverings when entering buildings, including face shields
- Allowing people to wait in vehicles for appointments, and calling them in when ready
- Providing phone or video appointments as an option
Overcoming Accessibility Challenges of Face Mask Wearing
All of these options are useful, however many of them do not reduce the isolation, or help return life to normal. People with disabilities have been greatly impacted by social isolation, and enabling a return to normal everyday life should be a priority. Some ideas for helping people with disabilities overcome the challenges of wearing masks include:
- Face masks with transparent windows have been made by accessibility-focused groups such as the Como Foundation to help those who are hard of hearing access masks that enable communication through lip-reading
- Face Shields are another more loose-fitting option. Although the CDC does not currently recommend using face shields in place of a mask, they recommend that a mask that wraps around the face, and descends past the chin may be used when a mask is not a viable option.
- Help educate others about the importance of wearing a mask. If you are unable to wear a mask, help others protect you by encouraging proper mask wearing and hand cleaning & surface sanitizing.
We would love to hear your ideas for staying healthy and returning to activities of daily living in the face of COVID-19. Leave a comment below!
COVID-19: Considerations for Wearing Masks. (2020, August 7). Retrieved August 08, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html Williamson, P. R., Morder, M. J., & Whaley, B. A. (2020) The ADA and Face Mask Policies [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from https://www.adasoutheast.org/ada/publications/legal/ada-and-face-mask-policies.phpRead More
Alex Smyth learns about Braze Mobility, a company making blind spot detectors for wheelchair users, and chats with the CEO, Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, and a client to discover more.Read More