Accessibility November 30, 2020
Only way to make pandemic response foolproof is to include people with disabilities. – Guest Column by Vineet Saraiwala
Our guest columnist talks about how we can make the world inclusive for people with disabilities in the post Covid scenario. This is also the UN theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Vineet Saraiwala leads Inclusion for Big Bazaar and is also working on AtypicalAdvantage, India’s first talent repository for people with disabilities. .
Whether it was an individual with spinal cord injury who needed to get his catheter changed every 15 days, or a child with autism not wearing masks because of enhanced sensitivity, or maybe a student with Hearing Disability unable to understand government bulletins because of sign language support. Whether it is a wheelchair user was left all to himself without a caretaker, or a patient requiring dialysis every 15 days or a citizen with blindness unable to order groceries online because of inaccessibility.
What will happen if a person with disability needs to be quarantined? How will they be taken care in the hospital? This is no secret that our nation was not equipped to handle people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and they suffered miserably. Instead of highlighting things which were not done for over 100 million citizens, let us focus on how we could improve things for people with disability if such situations occur again. Kindly note that when you start designing for people with disabilities it would benefit everyone – women, children, senior citizens and families with individuals with chronic diseases.
Making the post Covid world more inclusive
- Centralised repository of citizens with special needs – We are talking about a universal medical ID which needs to be built with the layer of disability in mind over the UID infrastructure. We could have automatically issued passes to caretakers, shared sign language communication to deaf people, Home delivered groceries to people with visual and physical disabilities and created alternative transport solutions for dialysis patients. These things could have been done only and only if we had known about the special requirements of our citizens. We are talking about an ID card for migrant workers after realising the extent of the problem.
- Accessible technology and infrastructure – Blind users struggled to use the Aarogya Setu app or order groceries online because of inaccessible technology. The inaccessible public infrastructure in apartments and hospitals meant people with physical disability and senior citizens had to struggle to get things done. We already have the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 which needs to be executed in the right spirit. Imagine How would a deaf individual reach out a government helpline for assistance which is his fundamental right denied to him.
- Sensitisation– We should educate all public services-police station, schools, hospitals, municipal bodies, pharmacies, and grocery stores about the needs of people with disabilities. Lack of awareness creates the greatest divide in the society and massive drives on building an inclusive country needs to be undertaken. For example, When Project Mumbai was assisting citizens with Hearing disability, it immediately reached out to a Hearing Interpreter to communicate & understand the requirement
We have the UID which could help us build a central repository, The RPWD Act needs to be strictly enforced and there should be massive awareness drives to raise understanding. So, we already have the tools to improve life of a citizen with disability and need willingness to do it. An emergency policy needs to be framed based on talking to all stakeholders so that we do not repeat our mistakes
And don’t forget. If you could go down the road to serve the most marginalised communities, You are automatically becoming sensitive towards everyone.
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