Coronavirus and its effects on persons with disability. – Guest Column by Jasmina Khanna
Our guest columnist this week is Mumbai systems engineer Jasmina Khanna. Jasmina is a wheelchair user and reflects on what being a person with disability means at a time when the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic.
Suddenly, a thought has come to my mind. I asked myself the most intriguing question that must be going around in many minds – What is Coronavirus? Is it a disease, a virus or stigma?
I have heard and read many stories about those who have suffered from this deadly virus and recovered, yet people in their vicinity do not want to connect with the afflicted persons. They are treated as untouchables or unwanted. This could affect them mentally too. They could give in to loneliness, even depression.
Has anyone ever thought about how has this pandemic has affected people with disabilities especially in developing countries like India? Is social distancing possible?
Social distancing and disabled people
Most people with disabilities require assistance in their daily lives in some way or the other. This can be exemplified differently in different disabilities. A wheelchair user or person with autism is dependent on a hired caretaker for regular chores like bathing, going to the washroom, or eating. Intellectually disabled persons need constant attention and assistance from others. Proximity with others cannot be avoided. Visually impaired people need the feel to touch a person or a surface for recognition of things through touch. Thus the disability community is more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
If a person with disability is affected by the coronavirus it could have drastic effects on his or her mind. People with disabilities are substantially ostracised even in normal circumstances. It is highly possible that he/she will be looked down upon all the more. This could have crucial mental effects on the person with disability.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has laid down certain guidelines for people with disabilities in India who are afflicted by coronavirus. The guidelines mention provision of many facilities such as accessible Covid-19 centres. It is highly doubtful that these guidelines are followed as even in regular times many guidelines for persons with disabilities are largely ignored.
Life after pandemic
The coronavirus has affected persons with disabilities in many other ways. Those with means of livelihood have either lost their jobs, faced salary cuts, seen their businesses shut down. This has not only impacted them financially, but emotionally and mentally. They will be worried about being able to get back to work once the pandemic is over.
There are lots of folks with disabilities who have not ventured out of their homes for months now. This has led to frustrations and anxieties. Though the time may not be right to travel out of home on a regular basis for a break, they can go out for a drive once in while in their vehicles with proper precautions. If this is not possible they can at least go down in their residential compounds or gardens for some fresh air.
These are testing times not only for people with disabilities but for everyone in general. We all need to keep ourselves busy in some way or the other. We can follow a passion or a hobby, read books, listen to music, etc.
This is a passing phase that shall get over soon. There is a Japanese saying which goes like this – “Winter always turns into Spring”. We can refer to the current phase as winter and eagerly wait for spring to bloom.
You can read other articles by Jamina on her blog here.
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