‘People with disabilities have special issues during virus outbreak’-THE HINDU-13-04-2020
People with disability have special issues in a situation like the spread of the novel coronavirus . People with disability are a diverse group, experiencing different hardships in accessing information on prevention and risk of infection. None of the messages in the media is using sign language interpreters. People with mental health issues cannot comprehend the messages.
At the same time, people with disabilities have a higher risk of conditions such as diabetes and hypertension which are high-risk factors for COVID-19 mortality. Therefore people with disabilities need much more support than the rest of the population in the face of a pandemic. Women with disability have additional issues. They are vulnerable to exploitation and even more so during a pandemic.
Many of them have children without disability and are highly stressed as to how they can care for their children and family members because they are not supported to care for them. People with communication disabilities don’t know how to express their problems. Routine health needs that they have are also not provided as health centres or transportation facilities are not accessible.
What is the scale of the problem?
India is home to nearly 150 million people with some degree of disability. Nearly 25-30 million have severe disability.
How can the public and government help?
India has signed up to achieving sustainable development goals of which cornerstone is universal access to health and education and equity. The government and the organisations working with people with disabilities have to make efforts to convert prevention and care messages on COVID into an accessible format. Health facilities should prioritise the needs of people with disabilities over the rest of the population. Mobile health teams can provide them services at home rather than they travel to hospitals.
The general public needs to be educated on providing support for people with disabilities. Technology-savvy professionals can help to make information available in an accessible format for people with disabilities. Students with disabilities also need to be provided support so that they can keep up academically.