TORONTO, May 5, 2020 /CNW/ - March of Dimes Canada is shining a light on a crisis of isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting 6.2 million people in Canada who live with disabilities. The organization is launching an emergency campaign to raise awareness about the challenges faced by people with disabilities, and to raise funds for urgently-needed online and telephone-based programs and services, in the wake of postponing its spring and summer fundraising events.
"Already vulnerable and disconnected, COVID-19 has dramatically increased the isolation of this community and destabilized the programs, services and support networks they count on every day," said March of Dimes Canada President and CEO Len Baker. "We have adapted many of our programs to be virtual, but we want and need to do much more to ensure every person with a disability is safely connected and supported through these unprecedented times."
People with disabilities frequently live socially isolated lives. To counter this isolation, March of Dimes Canada plays a vital role in offering programs to help people live as independently as possible, while providing opportunities for learning, skill development and social connection with a community of peers. Usually held in accessible locations in the community, these workshops, one-on-one sessions and larger gatherings are often the only face-to-face contact people have with others in a day or week.
"It's hard being home alone all day. I'm not as mobile as I'm supposed to be because of social distancing, so I'm worried about that. And I need people to talk to. I miss them so much," said Terry Banks, who lives with multiple sclerosis. "When March of Dimes Canada let me know the exercise program I attend was being adapted and offered online, I felt like I'd been thrown a lifeline. I need it for my MS because it's important to keep moving and it helps with my balance. But more than that, everyone in the online group is just delighted to be able to socialize. We log on early just for a chance to chat."
"We need our emergency campaign to succeed because people with disabilities need us now, more than ever," said Baker. "We worry that this acute isolation brought on by the pandemic will have serious health consequences." Social isolation and loneliness have been linked to many physical and mental health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
With the theme "Conquer the Curve", the campaign demonstrates how the COVID curve has created an almost insurmountable barrier between people with disabilities and their communities. Created in partnership with DDB Canada, the campaign comes at a critical time for March of Dimes Canada, after it was forced to cancel or postpone all its spring and summer fundraising events due to restrictions on social gatherings.
Vital funds raised through the campaign will support the charity's urgent efforts to develop new virtual programs that will provide emotional support for people with disabilities and their families while social distancing. The campaign will also help enhance other important programs, including expanded access to empowering technologies that foster connection and communication.
March of Dimes Canada is hoping people will use their personal COVID-19 experience and understanding of what isolation feels like to make a decision to support the campaign.
"We need to Conquer the Curve to break down the barriers that isolate people with disabilities – during the pandemic, and in the future," said Baker. "We are counting on Canadians to answer this urgent call."
March of Dimes Canada is a nationally registered charitable organization providing support services to people with disabilities, their families and caregivers across Canada. Our goal is to enhance the independence and community participation of people with disabilities every day through a wide range of programs and services across Canada. For more information, please visit www.marchofdimes.ca or call 1-800-263-3463.
Client and corporate spokespeople available for interviews across Canada.
Fact sheets on Disability in Canada, Isolation & Loneliness, still visuals, videos, and more resources available here
SOURCE March of Dimes Canada
For further information: For additional information and to arrange interviews, contact: Tina Siegel, Public Relations Coordinator, [email protected], 416-606-0541 • Mobile; Jennifer Spencer; March of Dimes Canada, Communications, [email protected], 416-710-9213 • Mobile