Steven Ralph voices the value of the COVIDSafe app by sharing his experience as someone at high-risk of contracting COVID-19

There’s a lot of debate around the COVIDSafe app, but most Australians aren’t faced with the reality of being at high-risk of contracting Coronavirus. For Steven Ralph and the team at Remarkable Disability Tech Accelerator, the simple decision to download this application comes from acknowledging the profound impact this will have on the wellbeing of all Australians, and especially for the many Australians living with disability.

Steve Ralph is in a white tee shirt and navy cap seated in his wheelchair, while smiling to the camera at the beach.
Steve Ralph smiling while enjoying a day at the beach.

After experiencing an almost complete spinal-cord injury in 2018, Steven Ralph, 28, is one of many Australians who are at high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

As a result of his injury, Steven lives with compromised respiratory function and mobility limitations. He relies on assistance from support workers for personal care, rehabilitation and injury maintenance. This means that despite his best efforts to restructure his life for social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s impossible for him to completely self- isolate.

“For someone in my situation, it is impossible for me to properly self-isolate and practice social distancing. I’m thankful for the team of support workers I have, however it means that I have a prolonged time every day where I am exposed to multiple people which has been a challenge for all of us to operate as safely as possible. There is no way around this for me,” says Steven.

“Contracting this virus for someone in my situation would mean almost certain ICU
admission and being placed on a respirator – if I’m lucky.”

After his spinal-cord injury two years ago, Steven has had to physically and mentally adapt his entire way of life to suit his needs, the magnitude of this change he says resembles some of the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people’s lives.

“Changing the way you live from an active 26-year-old bloke playing sport, going to Uni, working full time and finding your way in life to relying on support workers for personal care. Having constant rehabilitation and injury maintenance, experiencing niggling secondary health concerns and being inundated with hundreds of things you need to know about coping and living with such a life-changing injury has been a challenge in itself.”

“Coronavirus is another challenge that has been thrown at all of us. Everybody is finding ways to overcome these challenges and changes that have been placed on them and being forced to modify their own habits and lifestyles to suit the current situation we find ourselves in,” said Steven.

However, despite his challenges Steven continues his work in the medical technology industry, which involves participating part-time in the #SYD20 cohort for the Remarkable accelerator program. Steven is assisting a team of Entrepreneurs to launch a voice-enabled digital assistant app for young people living with paralysis called ‘Maslow,’ which offers personalised health education and life management tools and resources.

Steven has been able to continue working and maintaining his health care regime due to the Australian government’s strict isolation policies, which have successfully flattened the curve for the transmission of the coronavirus. However, given that the government is now reducing these strict isolation policies, Steven will continue to feel safe if many Australians adopt the new voluntary application ‘COVIDSafe’. This free coronavirus app, designed by the Government, would allow ready contact tracing for people who have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID19, thereby ensuring that any clusters or increases in COVID cases can be quickly identified and brought under control.

Pete Horsley says, “When we think about the people with disability we know and those we serve through our accelerator program, the stakes can be much higher if they are infected. So as a team, we’ve made the choice to download COVIDSafe out of solidarity with them.”

Steven explains, “As we stand today, Australia is in a good position but we have to keep up the hard work we have done, and our community needs to continue to take this seriously and remain aware of the measures we have in place to keep all of us safe!”

“For my own health and safety, I’m relying on everybody else to do the right thing as well.”

In other words, by ensuring that Australians take the necessary safety measures including downloading this free app, it means that people at high-risk like Steven will be able to continue working and staying safe.

To learn more about the amazing work that Maslow are doing head to their website, https://www.maslow.io/

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