Ade Adepitan says pandemic has had severe impact on people with disabilities

PARALYMPIAN and television presenter Ade Adepitan has revealed the devastating impact the pandemic has had on people with a disability.

Ade Adepitan. Picture: submitted

The writer and broadcaster, who uses a wheelchair as a result of contracting polio as a child, said the pandemic had magnified existing everyday challenges faced by people with a disability.

Problems have ranged from shopping to reading their gas and electricity meters and paying for energy.

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He was responding to new research which shows 60% of Scots living with a disability, mental health condition, on low income or in a vulnerable circumstance, say the pandemic has made their life more difficult.

The Smart Energy GB survey also revealed more than half of Scots questioned believe people living with a disability have been forgotten about during the pandemic.

Ade, who received the MBE in 2005 for services to disability sport, said: “Life has always been difficult for people with disabilities; the moment you open the door there are huge kerbs, uneven pavements, transport isn’t great and finding disabled parking bays is a nightmare.

“All of that is greatly accentuated during a pandemic.”

The award-winning presenter, who uses a high-tech titanium wheelchair, said technology is bringing hope and improving the lives of people living with disabilities.

He added that a simple change like having a smart meter installed by their energy supplier – which doesn’t cost anything but brings a host of benefits – can make a big difference to people’s lives.

“Technology such as having a smart meter can help people with disability feel like part of society.

“It makes life easier for everyone, but particularly people who are disabled.”

He added: “My gas and electricity meters are under the stairs in a cubby hole – there used to be danger music playing in my ears as I tried to read my meter.

“Get a smart meter and you no longer have that issue. Meter readings are automatically sent directly to energy suppliers, while in-home display shows energy use in near-real time in pounds and pence.”

In the survey, 21% of Scots said their traditional gas and electricity meters are in awkward to reach areas of their home.

It also showed 14% of Scots know someone living with a disability who was unable to top up their gas or electricity because they couldn’t get to the shop. Around a tenth of those questions said a carer was not able to visit to access the meter due to the pandemic.

However, 72% of those who have a smart meter said it had made managing their energy easier during the pandemic.

A key benefit for those on prepay contracts is being able to top up online or via an app, removing the need to travel to shops.

A smart meter can also unlock access to lower tariff rates – particularly helpful given that of the UK’s 14 million disabled people, 22% are on a low income.

Ade and Edinburgh-born wife, singer Linda Harrison – who performs as Elle Exxe – are currently looking forward to the birth of their first child in Spring.

He said smart meter technology has made him even more energy conscious, motivating him to switch off electrical items that aren’t needed or on standby and helping to do a bit more for the environment.

“When you start unplugging things, you can see the price go down and instantly see how much you are saving,” he added.

“We all need to do our bit by managing our energy that we just need, not wasting it.”

Smart meter technology can also help concerned relatives stay on top of elderly or vulnerable loved one’s energy use and costs. While work is underway for devices which will audibly tell customers with sight problems how much energy they are using in near-real time.

Dan Brooke, CEO of Smart Energy GB, said: “Life has enough challenges, particularly right now and particularly for disabled customers and those in vulnerable circumstances.

“Smart meters make life easier and cheaper and energy suppliers all over the country are ready and wating to fit them.

“So make contact, book an installation and give yourself one thing less to worry about.