Coronavirus: People with disabilities face added struggles during COVID-19 pandemic

SAYVILLE, Long Island (WABC) -- Organizations across the nation are aiming to help people with disabilities who are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, including several in our area.

For Suzanne Tarazi-Ferraro, who uses a wheelchair and is legally blind and hearing impaired, getting groceries has been almost impossible.

"We are suffering right now," she said. "Now, now, now"

Additionally, one of her two home health aides has her own real struggles with COVID-19, as her disabled son suffers from severe asthma, meaning she can't show up sometimes and Tarazi-Ferraro must switch to the other aid at the last minute.

Frank Perino, who is blind, has his own radio show and podcast for people with challenges called Innersight. Tarazi-Ferraro is his co-host. He says long waits for grocery deliveries have made it hard to get food for himself and even his guide dog Sharabelle.

"We've called many of the agencies. many of them are closed, and the rest of them have not so far responded," he said. "I'm worried about all the millions of disabled people who are out there trying to get help that we don't even know about, and they don't know who to call. I wish they would call us, Innersight. We'd try our best to help them."

And then there is Jose Hernandez, a quadriplegic whose home health aide for last 12 years, Fausto Romero, stopped coming to work because he got very sick with COVID-19 and then passed away. Hernandez leaned on friends.

"We ended up sharing a lot of home care, and unfortunately he continued to get sick," he said. "And a week later he went into the hospital. A week after that, he went onto the ventilator. And two days after that, he passed away, on Easter day. It was very hard. He was with me for 12 years."

Hernandez works for a group called UnitedSpinal.org and adds the New York City Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities is fantastic about connecting people with resources.

"Food resources, they have SNAP benefit resources," he said. "They even have snap benefit resources for your service animal."

There is also now a nonprofit that does grocery deliveries for the disabled for free, called Invisible Hands Deliver.

But Perino insists there is still so much need.

"The virus has taken its toll, we all know that," he said. "But it's 1,000 times worse when you're disabled or you're elderly."

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