THE coronavirus pandemic has created an environment of uncertainty for many.

But one group of people feeling the burden more than ever, is those who are disabled.

From experiencing isolation to coming up against barriers when attempting to access services, figures from the Office for National Statistics show nearly two-thirds of disabled people have reported being adversely affected by the pandemic.

Madeleine Close, co-founder of Disabled People's Voice in Hampshire, said the government needs to have a more inclusive approach. She said: “Our main mission statement is that it is not the impairment that is the problem, rather the barriers created by society”.

As someone who is registered as blind, Madeleine described facing first-hand the challenges of life in lockdown. She said: “We are getting more disabled by what’s going on. I am colour-blind but I do not qualify as vulnerable thus not qualified to get online shopping which has made it difficult.

She added: “My colleague is a wheelchair user and she has struggled with her grocery shopping. Before lockdown, she would get her groceries delivered and the delivery man would assist in bringing in the groceries but due to the guidelines this has become a real issue for her, especially in the beginning of lockdown.”

Madeleine said she felt the government guidelines and restrictions were ignorant of the needs of persons with disabilities.

She said: “A lot of disabled people I know that had to be shielded are ignoring government guidelines because they don’t want to come out and risk their lives. They feel it is more economical than good health advice”.

And on the other hand, Madeleine said the situation of being housebound took away many people’s independence. She reported several accounts of people left feeling saddened by the co-dependency forced upon them.

As Madeleine put it: “My independence has been taken away from me because of these added barriers. And a lot of us feel like this is backward, with the way things have been handled, it makes us feel like we are not thought about, included or considered.”

Firms whose businesses are designed to help those disabilities say the lockdown caused significant changes to their operation. Tom Gilver, the chairman of Shopmobility, reported that the beginning of March was detrimental for the charity as the business was down by 90 per cent. He said: “We care about our customers.

He added: “We miss them, and they miss us, so we still check up on our customers as they are reluctant to travel during this time. However, this is just one way the pandemic has severely impacted people with restricted mobility.”

Although many have been branded as vulnerable and cast aside the organizations are happy to discover they can resume their work through social media apps such as Zoom. Sarah Pinnell, 35, fundraiser co-ordinator at BDDF, expressed her hopefulness. She said: “I started working with BDDF before lockdown and even though we couldn’t do our job to its full extent, using Zoom for activities and virtual meet-ups has been beneficial. There are plans on using this virtual element in the future”.

Conway Marshall, one of the disabled representatives on the board of Basingstoke Mencap, said he is proud of how he’s handled the past four months.

He told The Gazette: “I have coped with lockdown and am proud of myself. I live in a home in Wallis Road and the staff have been fantastic. A bloke up the road organised a street dance. Everyone came out once a week. It was great.”

Michael Stocker, the chair of Basingstoke Mencap, said: “The main impact on learning disabled people that they are normally very active and our members were prevented from coming to our discos, dance and drama club and sports club. They really enjoy these, meeting up with their friends as well.”

He said there has been much demand for social activities to restart.