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PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES HAVE SPECIAL ISSUES DURING VIRUS OUTBREAK

What are the unique challenges that people with disability face?

  • People with disability have special issues in a situation like the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). People with disability are a diverse group, experiencing different hardships in accessing information on prevention and risk of infection.
  • They may not be eating properly and may experience higher stress because they are unable to understand what is happening all around them on which they have no control.

Examples of problems faced by people with disabilities

  • People with visual impairment and blindness depend upon touch for most of their daily activities. They need to hold the hand of an escort to move around; they cannot read the messages that the rest of the population can see; they cannot practise social distancing unless there are innovative approaches like keeping a safe distance using a white cane.
  • For the hearing impaired, especially those who are not literate, they cannot hear the message or read it. Since many depend on lip-reading, they are compromised when the person giving a message is wearing a mask.

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.
  • Most of them live as part of their families and depend on a carer.
  • This adds to another 25-30 million carers. So we are looking at nearly 50 million people who need special support, which is not routinely forthcoming.

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.

What is the current situation?

  • A country’s development is measured by its social support and inclusive policies. We need to set high standards and not succumb to the ‘might is right’ philosophy and abandon people with disability in this crisis.
  • Nobody is addressing the special needs of people with disabilities and making efforts at reaching out to them.
  • We would fail as a human race if we don’t show a humane response in an equitable manner with affirmative action for people with disabilities.
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October 2022
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