Rajasthan-based NGO’s helpline extends support to disabled people across several states
Rajasthan-based Support Foundation for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (SFADD) started exclusive helpline numbers for disabled people during lockdown. Most of the people who reached out for support for those with hearing impairments.
During the lockdown, many state governments and NGOs have stepped up to do their bit to support people with disabilities. There were thousands of disabled people who were struggling to make ends meet. They needed help urgently. Amongst the organisations that supported disabled people was Jaipur-based Support Foundation for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (SFADD). They have been lending a helping hand to many disabled people since April and has received a lot of appreciation for the work that they have been doing.
Support offered across the state
Pratibha Bhatnagar, who has a son with autism, is the founder of SFADD. When the lockdown started, she came to know that many people with disabilities across Rajasthan needed help. From food to finding source of income and even getting back to their native places, the requirements list was long.
Pratibha had the help of Sharat Tripathi, Rakesh Kumar Gangwal and Suresh Choudhry, all of whom works in the disability space. Together, they started a helpline number for disabled people across Rajasthan. Surprisingly, they got calls from nearby states too. Most of the calls were from people of deaf community.
The lockdown began a little earlier in Rajasthan. We received calls from different people stating the difficulties that they faced. Since most of our callers were deaf people, their neighbors and friends are the ones who contacted us. They were often seen crying and unable to get help. That is when we realized the urgent need of a helpline number. – Pratibha Bhatnagar, Founder, Support Foundation for Autism and Developmental Disabilities
Soon, she contacted state disability welfare officers but did not get a positive response. “They told us that they have their hands full. They asked us to start a helpline and assured all possible help. That is how we began the helpline number with support of concerned officials. But we did have a lot of support from them”, adds Pratibha.
Exclusive services for Rajasthan’s deaf community
Most of the callers were people with hearing impairments. Rakesh, an Assistant Professor Interpreting for Indian Sign Language Research and Training Center was among the team members. Through video calls, he interpreted and put out the word of requirements of deaf people.
That did benefit many people who were stuck across Rajasthan. The case of Mahesh* (name changed) is one such example. Mahesh, who has a hearing disability, was forced to come to work regularly during lockdown. His employer did not adhere to the government guidelines. Mahesh tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to communicate this to others. He tried to contact his neighbours for help but they did not respond as they were afraid of the virus.
The SFADD stepped up and communicated his needs to concerned officials. Mahesh now has medical help.
Various services offered during lockdown
Apart from helplines, SFADD also suppled ration kits to over 500 disabled people and networked with NGOs to reach out to more people. “Every district across Rajasthan has officials to help disabled people but they are unaware of all that. We also had the duty to connect them to the right people. Disabled people need a lot of help during such tough times because they are highly vulnerable. Social media also helped us to spread the word”, says Pratibha.
In another case, a son who epilepsy was stuck in Jaipur whereas the mother was in Ajmer. He needed urgent help from the mother and she had to be with him. SFADD made arrangements for her pass and the mother-son duo were reunited in four days!
The team has received over 150 calls till date. They are planning to go ahead with their work in days to come as lockdown has been extended. Pratibha says that being the mother of a person with autism, she knows the requirements of disabled people very well!
“Most of the calls that we get are from Rajasthan’s deaf and hard of hearing community. They have different problems. Some wants to go to their native place and others want to connect to family and friends. I get at least 50 calls every day. We even got calls from Guwahati and Madhya Pradesh”, says Rakesh.
People with speech and hearing impairment can contact Rajesh at +91 99878-26209. The other numbers are +91 98285-45636, +91 89555-02888 and +91 93588-33637.
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