Coronavirus: information and updates

Disabled people fear being ‘pushed out’ of post-lockdown world as shielding pauses

  • Scope warns new social rules risk excluding disabled people if their needs are ignored 
  • 37 per cent of disabled people are concerned about not being able to wear a face covering because of a health condition or impairment 
  • 87 per cent of disabled people are concerned that people will not respect social distancing 
  • 46 per cent of disabled people say they did not receive clear communication from the government about what they should personally do to stay safe 

Disability equality charity Scope is urging government, businesses and the public not to forget the UK’s 14 million disabled people, as new research revealed disabled people’s concerns about being excluded from a post-lockdown world. 

With shielding due to pause from August 1 (Saturday), new research by the charity has revealed disabled people’s fears that the ‘new normal’ – such as face coverings, long queues and pedestrianisation in towns - will make their lives much more difficult. 

Scope wants the government and businesses to work with disabled people and charities to seize the opportunity to make our post-lockdown society more inclusive, with safety measures which work for everyone, rather than turning the clock back on equality.  
 
A survey of 1,115 disabled people carried out by YouGov on behalf of Scope found: 

  • 37 per cent of disabled people are concerned about not being able to wear a face covering because of a health condition or impairment 
  • 36 per cent of disabled people are concerned about not being able to enter some public places with a carer 
  • 66 per cent of disabled people are concerned about not being able to be in queues for long periods when shopping because of a health condition or impairment 
  • 54 per cent of disabled people are concerned about closing off high streets to traffic making things more inaccessible for people with disabilities/ mobility issues  
  • 41 per cent of disabled people are concerned about the accessibility of apps needed to order food and drinks in restaurants and pubs
  • 71 per cent of disabled people are concerned about the lack of availability of accessible public toilets
  • 87 per cent of disabled people are concerned that people will not respect social distancing

Scope has also found that 46 per cent of disabled people say they did not receive clear communication from the government about what they should personally do to stay safe. The charity has been receiving calls to its helpline from disabled people and their families who are concerned and confused about the many new social rules and regulations, especially who exactly is exempt from wearing face coverings in public places.   
 
The charity has unveiled the findings as part of its We Won’t Be Forgotten campaign. Two weeks ago, Scope led a coalition of campaigners in an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for urgent action to prioritise the needs of disabled people, who have been amongst the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Almost two thirds of people who have died from coronavirus were disabled. The open letter has continued to gather momentum, with over 4,000 signatures including organisations such as Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mencap, Mind and RNIB and high-profile disability campaigners such as Alex Brooker, Ben Elton, Sophie Morgan, Samantha Renke and Lee Ridley.     
 
Gem Hubbard, 35, from Sussex, has a T10 incomplete spinal cord injury and uses a wheelchair. Gem regularly shares her experiences on her Instagram and YouTube channel WheelsNoHeels. 

She said: “Getting out and about before coronavirus could often be a challenge, but accessibility has gone out the window in the new post-lockdown world. 

“After months at home I’ve been trying to get out and about a bit more, but every single time I go out there's a problem. It's so infuriating and exhausting, it makes me not want to go out anymore at all. 

“I needed a new toaster, but when I got to the shops I found all the Blue Badge bays had been cordoned off to create a queuing area, with no other alternative. My only option was to come home. Many disabled people cannot go out without being able to park in Blue Badge bays, they’re one of the most important things we need. 

“I posted about it on Instagram and asked other people to share their experiences, and every day people are tagging me and sending me pictures of bays blocked off, and other accessibility issues.  

 “On another trip, I took my daughter to a shop and there was a hand sanitiser stall right in front of the doorway, meaning I couldn’t get past in my wheelchair. I was doing three-point turns to try and get past, and the staff were just watching me struggle. 

 “The worst experience was when I went to an electrical retailer. I had a urine infection, meaning I needed to use the toilet frequently. This can often happen to people with spinal cord injuries. After about 20 minutes of queuing (and another 20 to go) I was in so much discomfort, I couldn’t wait any longer, so I asked the manager if I could quickly go in and get what I needed so I could get home to go to the toilet.

He completely refused. He said the other people queuing wouldn’t be happy if he let me skip the line. But how would they feel seeing a grown woman wet herself? Again I had no option but to come home. 

“It feels like disabled people have been completely forgotten.” 

Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at disability equality charity Scope, said: 

“Easing lockdown presents in some ways a unique opportunity to press the reset button on many practices in our society which exclude disabled people. But instead, what we’re seeing is that our post-lockdown world is excluding disabled people even more than before. 

“Redesigning our communities with stringent safety measures to help make them more Covid-safe is welcome, but it should not be at the expense of the rights and independence of disabled people.  

“We know that there are many disabled people who have been shielding for the last few months who are incredibly anxious about stepping outside again as shielding pauses. They not only need to contend with worries about their health, but also a multitude of new barriers in society.    

“Disabled people have been routinely forgotten throughout this crisis, and that needs to stop now. There must be more clear and accessible communication from government and businesses about exemptions for disabled people. We also need far more public awareness and understanding about the challenges facing disabled people in the post-lockdown world. 

“Over 4,000 people have now signed Scope’s open letter to the Prime Minister calling for disabled people to be factored in to the Government’s recovery plan, and beyond. After enduring months of lockdown, disabled people must not be locked out of society.” 
 
For more information contact the Scope press office on 0207 619 7200 or out of hours 07843 467 948, or email pressoffice@scope.org.uk  
 
ENDS 
 
Notes to Editors 
 
We’re Scope and we want equality for disabled people. We provide practical and emotional information and support when it’s needed most and we campaign relentlessly to create a fairer society. For more information visit our website. 
 
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,013 adults, of which 1,115 have a health problem or disability. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th & 10th July 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). 

 

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