Centre tells States to ensure medical aid at homes of disabled people, access to caregivers
The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities has issued guidelines that direct all states on the measures to be taken to ensure that disabled people are safe during the 21-day lockdown following the coronavirus outbreak. The guidelines are meant to sure that people with disabilities can go about their activities in a safe manner.
People with disabilities and chronic health conditions are among the most vulnerable groups during the coronavirus crisis. Recognising this, the Department of Empowerment of People with Disabilities (DePWD) has released a comprehensive set of guidelines for States to follow during the lockdown.
Some key points are:
- Information about coronavirus/COVID-19 to be made available in local language and in accessible formats. This means Braille and audible tapes for visually impaired people, and videos with sign language interpretation and subtitles for those with hearing disabilities and through accessible websites.
- Sign language interpreters in emergency/health settings will get safety measures on par with healthcare workers.
- Persons handling emergency response services to be trained on the rights of disabled people and any extra risks due yo disability.
- Information on support for disabled people to be part of awareness campaigns.
- Most important, essential support services should be ensured for people who are blind, with intellectual disabilities, or others dependent on caregiver support.
- People using assistive devices including wheelchairs can seek help for repairing their devices if needed.
- Caregivers exempt from restrictions during lockdown.
- Ensure personal protective equipment for caregivers.
- Caregivers and other support providers to disabled people be given access to their homes.
- Food/water/other essentials to be home delivered to disabled people. Opening hours at shops and supermarkets to be reserved for the community.
- Disabled people to get priority in treatment.
- Online counselling mechanisms to be set up to address stress-related issues.
- 24/7 exclusive helpline with sign language interpretation and video calling.
- Involve disabled people’s organisations in preparing and disseminating awareness information.
Caregivers for disabled people to come under essential services category
The State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities in every state will be the nodal authorities for the community and will work with key state departments heads in dealing with the community’s issues.
While welcoming the announcement, the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) has pointed out the lack of measures to ensure uninterrupted supply of blood to people with disorders like Thalassemia who require regular blood transfusion.
It is also welcome that the guidelines suggest that “Employees with blindness and other severe disabilities in both public and private sectors should be exempted from essential services work during the period as they can easily catch infection”. “Severe disabilities” is a new and vague term that has now been coined. It would have been better if the guidelines had been more specific. Apart from those with visual impairment, there are people with mobility issues, who may not be able to attend office in these conditions. You will also agree that those with compromised immune systems should be advised against attending office. Also, in the absence of public transport, most of the disabled employees would be unable to reach their places of work and return home. – Muralidharan, General SecretaryNational Platform for the Rights of the Disabled
It also points out that the guidelines do not address the concerns of disabled people in the unorganised sector or those who are homeless. “Various studies have indicated that no less than 65% of the disabled population are unemployed. The guidelines fail to suggest any measures to address their concerns”. Calling the ₹ 333.33 monthly ex gratia announced by the Finance Minister inadequate, it has asked for this to be increased to ₹ 5,000.
In the meantime, some state governments have taken steps towards a disability inclusive approach. Tamil Nadu launched the COVID-19 24×7 Helpline for Persons with Disabilities as well as a WhatsApp & Video Call Helpline for people with hearing impairments to converse with sign language interpreters.
- Coronavirus relief for disabled citizens inadequate & disappointing, say disability rights activists
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