Disability-inclusive guidelines for COVID-19 lockdown poorly implemented in UP
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is home to nearly 16% of the country’s disabled population. Yet over a week after the Centre directed all states to ensure they have disability inclusive guidelines in place during the coronavirus lockdown, little has been done.
Census 2011 places the disabled population in Uttar Pradesh at over 41 lakh, making it the state with the largest number of people with disabilities in India. The disabled are also among the worst hit in the coronavirus pandemic, yet they face acute neglect in UP. This is despite an advisory issued by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPWD) on 5 March mandating all states and union territories to ensure comprehensive disability-inclusive guidelines were in place.
Disabled among most vulnerable to COVID-19
The guidelines were issued keeping in mind that people with disabilities are more vulnerable to coronavirus or COVID-19 given their physical, sensory and cognitive limitations. The guidelines mandate all states to make information related to the virus accessible in audio-formats and Braille for visually impaired people. Similar guidelines were also issued keeping in mind the needs of those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Progress in many states has been patchy but in UP, the gap between policy and implementation seems especially large.
Of the total 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh, 27 districts are yet to provide the e pass facility for caregivers of disabled people. Most glaring is the lack of any facility for sign language interpreters anywhere in the state. Other states are providing this. Given that UP has 15.5% India’s disabled population, this is a major lapse. – Akeel Usmani, Disability Rights Advocacy Group
Lack of awareness about disability-inclusive guidelines
The fall-out is that people with disabilities are struggling for access to basic needs, says Aas Mohammed of the NGO Vikas Viklaang Sewa Samiti. “There is not even a helpline where disabled people can call for support. One of the biggest issues people seem to be facing is access to food”.
Rohit Kumar Meet, Founder of Meet Welfare Foundation, a Lucknow-based NGO that works with the visually impaired community, echoes the same. “None of the provisions set down by the Centre are yet to see the light. A helpline number was circulated but no one calls that as its not effective. When no arrangements have been made for non-disabled people, what attention can we expect for the disabled?”, he asks.
One of the main provisions is uninterrupted service for disabled people with the Centre instructing states to provide medical aid to disabled people at their homes. But much of this information is unknown to the community.
Sitanshu Kumar, Founder of Shashwat Jigyasa, says that barring a few in the disabled community who have made their own arrangements, others are struggling. “No information has been disseminated by the state government, be it in sign language or any other way. That is the root of the issue”.
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