As Deafblind people, we are especially vulnerable to Covid:
- The virus spreads through close contact, and we are often in close contact with others for tactile communication and guiding.
- Covid19 is more serious for older people, and most DBV members are older because deafblindness progresses with age.
- Many of the measures used to prevent the spread of the virus present challenges for Deafblind people: social distancing, using masks, QR codes and changing to online meetings.
- We already struggle with isolation and a lack of supports. Lockdown has increased isolation and reduced support even further. Some of us were not able to continue living independently through lockdowns. We were unable to get tactile interpreters for counselling and medical appointments.
- The messaging from the government has been confusing and frightening for Deafblind people and we often felt left out.
DBV stayed open for members through lockdown to provide essential support. This included Auslan translations of Covid information, help understanding lockdown rules, getting vaccination certificates, and fixing our computers, phones and communication devices. We worked hard to keep members connected through email, Facebook posts, newsletters and reaching out to vulnerable individuals. These communications included tips for communicating in hospital, if no interpreters or support workers are available, and information about vaccinations. DBV’s Alex Sar shared his experience with vaccination as a Deafblind person, to encourage others.
DBV made a short video for the Self Advocacy Resource Unit to talk about what impact Covid has had on our group. A transcript is available on our YouTube page in the video description.
Deaf Victoria has a Covid outreach project to find out more about how Covid impacts the Deaf community. Catherine Dunn interviewed DBV members to make sure a Deafblind perspective is included. Contact Deaf Victoria to get involved: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jasper Cleland, DBV’s Covid safe marshall, has also been meeting weekly with Bec Swansson, the Deafblind services coordinator from Able Australia, to collaborate on messaging to the Deafblind community regarding support workers and Covid safety.