Published August 25, 2020
THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT
Pandemic an extra challenge for disabled
Office closures make providing services harder
By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin
I’ve written frequently about how the pandemic has rippled through many aspects of our society.
But I was curious about how the pandemic is affecting some of our county’s most vulnerable citizens and the people who help them.
Being disabled and in a wheelchair myself, I take particular interest in the Brazoria County Center for Independent Living (BCCIL), a federally-funded non-profit that I have written about before.
In normal times, the Angleton center helps empower people with disabilities to live more independent lives by providing information and referral services, peer support and skills training. It also advocates on behalf of the disabled and helps coordinate services with government bureaucracies.
Like most businesses and organizations during the pandemic, BCCIL is trying to make the most of a bad situation.
The pandemic has forced the center to close its office to the public. That, however, doesn’t mean the center isn’t helping those in need. Phone calls to the center are rolled over to staffers working at home.
Despite the closed office, there have been some remarkable successes.
K.J. Rabe, an independent living specialist at the center, is proud of finding a home for a disabled man who had been living on the streets. And he knows of several other cases when the center prevented others from losing housing.
But the pandemic is taking its toll.
Every month two groups – one of disabled men, and another of disabled women – would gather at the center.
Many are in wheelchairs. Some are blind or deaf. Some have mental or cognitive challenges.
They would receive information and training about living with their disabilities. Just as importantly, they could socialize with friends. For a few moments, they were no longer isolated by their disability.
What are the center’s disabled clients doing now?
“They are staying home,” said Rabe, an independent living specialist at the center. “They have underlying physical conditions and most are elderly. They are high risk. They are scared.”
Not surprisingly during these tough economic times, the biggest need among the county’s disabled is financial help.
The center has received federal funds to help people with rent and utilities. The funds are also used for everyday pandemic necessities such as masks and hand sanitizer.
Increasing food prices are putting additional pressure on the county’s disabled.
“An increase of $30 a month may not seem like much to some people, but it is a lot to many of the disabled,” says Rabe.
The Houston Food Bank has stepped in to help out, and federal funds also cover $100 Walmart vouchers.
Let’s remember that while many of us are worried about whether college football will survive the pandemic, others in the county have more pressing challenges ahead.
(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at email@example.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)