Make COVID-19 testing centres accessible for disabled people, directs DEPwD
The Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry (SJEM) has directed states and union territories to ensure COVID-19 testing centres, quarantine facilities and hospitals are made physically accessible for people with disabilities.
A welcome step by Shakuntala D Gamlin, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD). In a letter she has directed all states and union territories to urgently act to ensure that basic physical accessibility facilities for disabled people is set up at COVID-19 tensing centres, quarantine facilities and hospitals.
Ms Gamlin warns that the pandemic poses a greater threat to disabled people. This is because of lower/compromised immunity and in many cases, inability to understand the information given out. An equally big factor is the lack of accessibility features at COVID-19 facilities.
COVID-19 a bigger threat for disabled people
The letter follows an earlier advisory from the DEPwD laying down guidelines about providing information in alternative accessible formats, priority treatment for disabled people and setting up accessible service providers, like sign language interpreters.
In addition, it is also necessary that basic physical accessibility features are ensured, as per reasonable accommodation in the centres for COVID-19 testing and quarantine facilities as well as for treatment at hospitals and health centres. – Shakuntala Gamlin, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities
DEPwD suggests basic accessibility features
States must act quickly so that disabled people, those with reduced mobility or dependent on caregivers are not inconvenienced during the pandemic. Some of the features mentioned in Ms Gamlin’s letter include placing control mechanisms and self-operated devices like sanitiser dispensers, glove cases, soaps, wash basins, etc., at recahing distance of disabled people, especially wheelchair users.
Simple, prominent signage and ramps of gradient 1:12 with railings have also been suggested. At least one low height accessible counter at reception areas, testing centres and pharmacies also find mention.
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