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Virus response sidelined disability sector

Australians with disabilities have felt sidelined or ignored altogether throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Advocates say the government’s refusal to increase the disability pension, despite doubling the dole, also created extra pressures.

Federal politicians have been told some elements of the pandemic response are worth keeping.

El Gibbs from People with Disability Australia endorsed a new national advisory committee and increased access to telehealth services.

With a job and stable income, Ms Gibbs says she fared better than other people with disabilities during the crisis, but she still struggled.

“It was an extremely difficult and stressful time,” she told a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday.

“The systems that I use to live independently all collapsed.”

Care services were limited as workers were told to stay home to prevent infecting vulnerable people.

People with disabilities also struggled to get food when panic buying took hold. Many couldn’t get people to take them shopping during exclusive-access hours.

Trevor Carroll from the Disability Justice Australia said some coronavirus public health communications were not accessible to his clients.

Mr Carroll said a quarter of his clientele had one or more disabilities that left them unable to communicate in writing, online or over the phone.

Social distancing requirements prevented him meeting them face-to-face.

Mr Carroll said some were forced to ask aged care workers to help them write complaints about the homes.

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