Pandemic Guide for the Blind

Pandemic Outbreak Isolation: Coping and Thriving

These suggestions and resources are grouped into sections for managing information, your digital security, basic accessibility tools, physical security, mental health and wellness, food, and online resources for education and entertainment. This is intended to be a starting point and not meant to be a complete list of every option. If you have a suggested addition, please get in touch using contact info on our front page.

Creating Your Own Personal Handbook: How to effectively keep and manage your digital life

  • Note taking: Using an application purpose-built for storing and finding information in the form of notes, scanned documents, web pages. Suggestions: Evernote, Apple’s Notes application and others
  • Your digital file. Categorizing things can be helpful.  Typically you are more likely to file something when it occurs. You may be unlikely to go back to file things retroactively.
  • Your most sensitive information (e.g. your passwords, credit cards, identification cards, and notes with sensitive information) should be kept in apps designed to keep sensitive information safe.  We’re now more reliant on online services than ever. Reusing the same old easy-to-remember passwords is analogous to locking your front door with rubber bands. 
    • On iOS, you can use the Keychain to store and autofill passwords and forms, and Wallet to keep payment cards. The Notes app stores your notes with encryption. Your Apple ID is your master password, and you must keep it safe.
    • LastPass is a digital vault that has a free plan which includes syncing to all your devices. This is particularly useful if you have passwords on devices from multiple manufacturers (Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon)
  • Email: File important (emphasis on important) email as you get it into folders.  
    • Think about how you will want to search for information when creating folders to organize. Will you want to find email by organization name, or by subject? It may be a mix of both.
    • Have you marked recipients as VIPs (iOS) or similar category with Android? This can not only allow you to filter your inbox to just show email from people you’ve categorized, but change how you get notified about email from important people. 
  • Websites: Do you bookmark sites to a single list, or do you create categories of bookmarks and file the bookmark at the time you make it? Having bookmark folders set up so you can file as you bookmark is recommended, as many people do not go back after the fact to organize their bookmarks menu.  
  • Are you using a synchronization feature to keep all your bookmarks synced across multiple devices? Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge all support syncing bookmarks, but you may need to log in in the browser to activate this feature.
  • Some examples for bookmark folders: Accessibility Tools, Bill Paying, Books, Grocery, Restaurant Menus, Transportation, TV.

Your digital life security

  • Running security software on computer
  • Healthy skepticism when reading email: Is the sender really who they claim to be from? Were you expecting this attachment? Is a threat of discontinuation of service and request for verification real? If you have any doubts, do not reply or click on any link in that email. Call or reach out to the sender using any other method.

Your Accessibility Toolkit

  • Video assistants
  • Keeping devices and your knowledge of how to use them up-to-date
    • OS updates
  • Take advantage of training or knowledge sharing opportunities
  • Mobility apps
    • Lyft, UBER, Token, Compass, Microsoft Soundscape
      • Bone conducting headphones are recommended for Soundscape, because you want to be able to hear well as you walk, while also hearing the 3D audio cues.

Physical Safety and Wellness

  • Do you have an emergency medical kit handy? It does not have to be a big metal box marked “Emergency Kit.” It can be a box of items you think you may need. Suggested items:
    • Your preferred pain killer
    • Band Aids
    • Antibiotic ointment
    • Gauze wrap
    • Tape
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Digital talking thermometer
    • CDC has mask making guidelines that are updated to describe the instructions to make a no-sewing mask.

Managing stress and feelings of social isolation

If you are managing your stress well, consider some preventative steps, summed up with the three M’s:  Movement, mindfulness, mastery

Also, small acts of kindness are boosting for both giver and receiver

  • Planning and preparing can help you feel less worried about the unknown
  • Avoiding alcohol and substances that can cause a depressed mood
  • Take breaks
  • Stretch and exercise
  • Make time to unwind
  • Get plenty of sleep. Maintain good sleep hygiene:
  • Talk to people about your concerns: Often just verbalizing a problem can help you process
  • Write about what is troubling you. This can be particularly helpful to process traumatic events. After you finish, erase the document as recording thoughts is not the point, but rather the act of turning traumatic thoughts into words on a page to help your brain process them.
  • Proactively check in with family to ask how they are doing
  • Watch others for signs of distress:
    • Unexplained bedwetting in children
    • Unusual drug or alcohol use
    • Unusual headaches or stomach distress
  • Know what medications your loved one is taking
  • Find out ahead of time what options are available for mental health treatment
    • Options provided by your health insurance
    • Local providers friends or family can recommend.
  • Take a break from pandemic news coverage. But plan to “dip back in” to stay informed at regular intervals. 

Fear, anxiety and grief are normal in this situation.

If you are experiencing persistent low mood, anxiety, lack of concentration, persistent sleep problems or inability to experience joy, please consider seeking professional assistance.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. First, check with your insurance company benefits to see if mental health benefits are provided. Often, they will spell out what providers are included. For those employed, there is possibly an Employee Assistance Program that includes tele-concealing.

There are also local psychiatrists that are less expensive. Catholic Charities is one such group that provides behavioral health counseling on a sliding scale starting from zero, depending on your income.

Also keep in mind if you have previously experienced drama and anxiety, you could be more vulnerable in this challenging time.

Food

  • Instacart grocery delivery is an online service to order food from many local grocery stores, as well as CVS and Target. Shoppers are local people who sign up to deliver food for the service.
  • Service is “getting better” regarding product descriptions provided by the Instacart shopper picking your items. Sometimes they may send you an image of a product and ask if it is ok to substitute, and sometimes they include a description in text. It is important to tip well.
  • Allow more time than usual for food to be delivered. Store inventories may be more uneven than usual.
  • You may want to consider ordering directly from local restaurants if you want to maximize their profit. See this article in BusinessWeek about food delivery service fees impacting already razor-thin profit margins.

Online Resources for Entertainment, Education, Keeping Informed

  • Watch movies and television with friends using a group watching app. TwoSeven is a free browser-based extension for Firefox and Chrome that lets you watch content together with friends, while being able to talk to them. 
  • More options are outlined in this article from The Verge
  • Use the Monroe County Public Digital Library (or your local library). There are many services available to you at no cost that would otherwise be paid services.
    You need a local library password, which is also called a PIN. There is a way to request and receive one without an in-person visit. Read the getting started information and follow the directions to have a staff member be in touch with you within 24 hours to complete the process.
  • Access to licensed content typically requires you to go to the provider from the eLibrary website, create an account, and specify your Monroe County account information.
  • There are some specific eLibrary Index web pages that list and link to the content so you do not have to hunt through the libraries’ website. You may find it helpful to bookmark the page for a service right after you follow the link to it from the eLibrary website.
  • Herald-Times full text archive
  • New York Times online
  • Books: Overdrive thousands of audiobooks. According to the librarian, the widest selection and easiest access would be to access books through BARD. That is not to say that some of these other providers the library has licensed are not accessible. Some offer specialized content and learning materials, for example, that you would not find on BARD.
  • Magazines
  • Education
  • Videos: Kanopy does have some films with audio description. Most are on subjects related to disability, and there is not an easy way to find which films have audio description. Hoopla does not have descriptive audio content. You can find some by searching for “audio description,” but that will also include titles without. We have brought this up to library staff, and they are raising the issue with these providers.
  • BARD: Sign up through Indiana State Library, download the BARD smart phone app or request a compatible digital reader
  • ACB’s Descriptive Audio Index – What, and how, to watch with audio description. If you have not yet watched a movie with audio description turned on, you won’t believe what you are missing.
  • Amazon
    • Alexa: Can read Kindle books you have purchased using natural sounding, high quality text-to-speech output, and of course play Audible books. Each month, there is a new free selection. Just ask: “Alexa what’s free on Audible?”
  • KNFB’s Newsline: Access via telephone or the mobile app breaking news, thousands of newspapers, magazine ads, job listings, retail ads, tv listings. Sign up through the Indiana State library.
  • The mobile app now includes the basic functionality of the KNFB Reader, for free. The KNFB Reader was a $99 app that reads printed material out loud.

Document history:

4/25/2020 – Published