Accessibility October 3, 2020
Members of Kerala NGO demand accessible & disabled friendly Covid care centers in the state
The All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation (AKWRF) had sent petitions to concerned authorities requesting for disabled friendly Covid-19 care centers in the state. But nothing needful has been done till now. With rising number of cases in Kerala, people with disabilities are living in fear.
Though Kerala had managed to flatten the Covid-19 curve last May, the state is now one of the biggest Covid spreaders in India. Over 8000 cases have been reported for consecutive days which is indeed a cause for worry. Amongst those who undergo tough times now are people with disabilities. Members from the All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation (AKWRF), an organization that empowers wheelchair users, are demanding for disabled friendly Covid centers.
Need for disabled friendly Covid centers
Covid-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in Kerala. Restrictions being imposed by government are clearly not working. 32-year-old Sudhish* (name changed), a wheelchair user, had to go under quarantine after he came in contact with a Covid positive tested person. But since all Covid centers are inaccessible, Sudish decided to undergo home quarantine. Needless to say, this was a threat to his elderly parents and infant at home. But what other choice does he have?
What worries disability rights activists are the insensitivity of government officials towards their needs and concerns. AKWRF had sent requests to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Health Minister KK Shailaja and all district collectors from whom they have not received any positive response.
Rajeev Palluruthy, Secretary of AKWRF says that as always, people with disabilities are being sidelined during the pandemic as well. “Immunity levels of disabled people are very low. So it is risky for us to be put in Covid centers along with other infected people. I had mentioned about this in various platforms, but authorities have not paid any heed to our demands. What we need now are exclusive Covid centers for disabled. We already know of a few disabled people who have been infected in various parts of Kerala and the numbers are likely to rise in coming days”, he says.
Hassles of disabled people during pandemic
Accessible centers with wheelchair ramps and bathroom facilities are on the top priority list.
Balaram Swamy, a wheelchair user, is reportedly the first person to have died from Covid in Kerala. He was tested positive after being admitted to the hospital for other health issues. Wheelchair users across the state are now hoping that the government takes this into notice and do needful.
Sindhu Sudevan, Trivandrum district president, AKWRF says, “As far as we know, none of the Covid facilities are disabled friendly. That is why we demand exclusive centers in each district for disabled people who are tested positive for Covid-19 and also for those who come in contatc with infected people”.
The New Indian Express quoted Dr Mohammad Asheel, executive director of Kerala Social Security Mission(KSSM) having said, “Setting up separate Covid care centers in each district isn’t feasible in the current scenario. However, if the need arises, facilities will be provided through the help of various local self-government departments in the state”.
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