Over the past few months, those who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs have worked remotely while millions of others have been furloughed or laid off. Children with access to broadband internet service have continued their education through distance learning. Those who could, stayed home, self-quarantining to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Staying at home and having limited social interaction has taken an emotional and mental toll on many people, with increased reports of anxiety, fear and depression. It’s been tough for everyone, but people with disabilities are especially vulnerable.
Twenty-six percent of adults in the U.S. have some type of disability—whether it’s mobility, cognition, the ability to live independently, hearing, vision or the ability to care for one’s self. While individuals with disabilities are not inherently at a greater risk for contracting COVID-19, individuals with disabilities may be more affected by the disruption of services, including:
- Home and community supports and service provision
- Access to education
- Access to information
- Access to steady employment
- Access to healthcare and other critical needs
Helping in Ways that Humans Can’t During Social Distancing
Individuals with disabilities may be especially challenged with social distancing as some rely heavily on community-based and in-home service provision. Service provision ranges across many categories, including anything from therapy to delivery of goods, meals and medications. In addition to helping people deal with feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety, Service Dogs can assist people with disabilities who rely on human aids to complete everyday tasks. One of ECAD’s clients, Elena, shares her story about the many ways her Service Dog assists her, especially during the Coronavirus.
Like many nonprofit organizations, our funding has been affected by the current economic situation. In fact, we are in crisis and the very existence of our organization is in jeopardy. In the balance are the people and programs we need to train our Service Dogs. With your financial support ECAD will be able to train people and Service Dogs and continue programs that enable us to serve individuals with respect and dignity.
How ECAD Makes a Difference
Service Dogs are trained for a variety of tasks—everything from alerting to a medical crisis and providing assistance in a medical crisis to pulling a wheelchair and retrieving items. Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD), offers several programs to help people with various disabilities.
Project HEAL® honors and empowers Veterans with combat-related physical and/or psychiatric disabilities including amputees, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The specially trained Service Dogs for vets assist with reminding vets to take medications, warning them of approaching strangers and creating a barrier in crowded public places, etc.
Canine Magic is a specialized program focused on providing Service Dogs to children with Autism and is one of only a few accredited Service Dog providers that accepts children with Autism as young as two years old. These dogs provide social, emotional, and cognitive development assistance, and most importantly, increases a child's physical safety by "anchoring"—a method in which the dog wears a harness that is attached to the child's belt. The child also holds the harness and is taught to walk with the dog, but a third-party facilitator (usually a parent or teacher) holds a second leash attached to the dog's collar. The parent can then give the dog a command to "stay" if the child becomes distracted, frustrated, or tries to bolt away, enabling the child to function well in situations that were previously impossible to handle.
Some of the hardest-hit communities of the pandemic— nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals—can benefit from ECAD’s Facility Service Dog program. These specially-trained Service Dogs can include visitations or professional therapy in one or more locations working with a trained volunteer or professional.