Hidden COVID crisis: The major issue confronting people with disability

Nidhi Shekaran says finding Rapid Antigen Tests is like winning the lottery. Photo: Melissa Stevens.
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As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the state, the lack of Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) available for disability support workers could have a life-threatening impact on people with disabilities.

Western Sydney local Nidhi Shekaran, who lives with cerebral palsy and vision impairment, says she relies on her support worker to help her with her everyday routine.

“I have to be supported in showering because of my disability,” Ms Shekaran said.

“If my support worker doesn’t turn up it throws my whole routine into meltdown.”

As the Omicron variant continues to run rampant throughout the community, it has become even more difficult for Ms Shekaran to get the help she needs.

“There is a massive support worker shortage. I have to book two support workers, one as a back-up and one as the main for each day, in case one gets COVID,” Ms Shekaran said.

In order to have access to her support workers, Ms Shekaran needs to ensure they are not putting her at risk by being infected, which is proving difficult without priority access to Rapid Antigen Tests.

“RAT tests are very expensive. It’s the luck of the lottery to find them in your nearest chemist, you have to go from area to area,” she said.

Chief Executive Officer of the Physical Disability Council of NSW Serena Ovens believes that it’s important that RAT tests are available free of charge for people that are high risk.

“For people with a disability it’s a life-threatening need that they have Rapid Antigen Tests. Some people need two or three a day to ensure that support workers and carers coming in to work with them are not positive and will keep them safe,” Ms Ovens said.

To guarantee access to care, Ms Ovens said that many people with disabilities have resorted to self-funding RAT tests for their support workers.

“Some of our members have already spent more than $1000 on Rapid Antigen Tests. That’s a huge cost. For most people with a disability that money takes away from their ability to live,” she said.

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