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Alec Bernard, Sara Weiss, Joshua D Stein, Anah Salgat, Kate Panzer, Michael McKee, Joshua R Ehrlich; The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Mitigation Measures on Persons with Vision and Hearing Impairment. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2021;62(8):2832.
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COVID-19 and associated mitigation measures have caused unprecedented global disruption. It is not known whether there are disproportionate challenges for persons with a sensory disability. Our cross-sectional study assesses this impact of the pandemic on persons with and without visual or hearing loss.
Experts from diverse disciplines developed a 34-item survey instrument, the Coronavirus Disability Survey, which includes items on general and psychological health, instrumental activities of daily living, isolation, financial and transportation challenges, and information access. The study population included 112 adults with moderate or worse visual impairment (<20/60 in better-seeing eye), 108 with hearing loss (defined using ICD-10 codes), and 155 age/sex-matched controls recruited from the University of Michigan (UM) Health System. Survey administration was via email or telephone. The UM IRB approved this study and all participants provided informed consent.
Participants reported similarly high levels of disruption of their daily lives with 80% reporting “a fair amount” or “a lot” of disruption. Groups reported similar levels of COVID exposure (21%) and infection (45% of exposed). In the visual loss (VL) group, 18% reported “a lot” of difficulty or being “unable” to access routine medical care compared with 12% of hearing loss (HL) and 10% of control (C) groups (p=.02). The reasons for increased difficulty with instrumental activities of daily living varied: among those with VL 62% had difficulty due to fear of exposure (54% HI, 45% C); 38% said the person assisting them was worried about exposure (6% HI, 7% C); and 12% cited decreased availability of public transportation (2% HI, 3% C). A greater proportion with VL began relying more on family for assistance (31% VI, 7% HI, 13% C) (p<.001 for all comparisons). Among all participants, 30% reported difficulty accessing trusted information about the pandemic; 11% of those with VL found the information difficult to see or hear (1% HL, 2% C; p<.001).
Individuals with VL may face increased disruption of their daily activities stemming from the pandemic and related mitigation measures, including in accessing healthcare, transportation, and information. Data-driven public health and policy decisions may benefit from a deeper understanding of the differential impact of the pandemic on these vulnerable groups.
This is a 2021 ARVO Annual Meeting abstract.
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