Outages challenging for people with disabilities

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Local advocate says Eastern Health has reached out to clients

Power outages can be particularly troublesome for those who depend on others to assist with certain aspects of their day-to-day life.

An advocacy group for people with disabilities says Eastern Health has been meeting its commitments when it comes to those served by the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador (COD-NL).

“I did talk with Eastern Health earlier (Monday), and they actually canvassed their clients who require personal care, and everybody was good,” said COD-NL executive director Kelly White.

White was aware of a couple of people who were low on oxygen at one point but able to make it to an emergency room to have their vendors refilled.

“It looks like actually people were prepared, and it appears that there were no big issues. However, we always have to keep in mind that there could be.”

Transportation has been one problematic area, as GoBus Accessible Transit did not operate Saturday due to weather conditions. Metrobus also did not operate that day.

GoBus was back in service Sunday. A power outage Monday morning affected its phone lines and computer systems, but power was restored a short while later.

White was not in the office on the weekend, but she did check messages and emails to make sure there were no problems requiring immediate attention.

She can recall cases in the past where the well-being of a person with a disability was compromised. During a storm within the last few years, a person confined to a bed had no contact with the outside world for three days during an outage.

Attempts were made to check on the person, but ringing the doorbell failed to get anyone’s attention in light of the power outage.

Outages can also create issues for people who use battery-operated equipment that is recharged with electricity.

Emergency preparedness has been a topic of discussion for COD-NL. It recently submitted a funding proposal to a local St. John’s Rotary club on developing more emergency preparedness strategies.

“We realized we need to do more talking, and we need to prepare municipal leaders, emergency response teams and persons with disabilities on how to be prepared for an emergency, and how (to) work with persons with disabilities — with their service animals, with their equipment, things like that,” said White.

In a news release issued Monday, the organization advised the public to check on neighbours with disabilities and provide them with help if needed.

For people with mobility issues, COD-NL advises against lifting them unless the person doing the lifting is familiar with safe techniques.

An arm should be offered to a person with a vision impairment when assisting them on a walk, and that walk should go at the pace chosen by the individual.

For people deaf or hard of hearing, facing that person is important when talking to them. Use of visual cues is also recommended, and approaches should not be made from behind.

White said people with disabilities also need to take some responsibility for themselves by contacting friends, family or caretakers if they can manage to do so.

“They may require extra support during this time.”

She also stressed the importance of making sure buildings are accessible by clearing snow from ramps.



Organizations: COD-NL, Coalition of Persons

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