Covid-19: caring for vulnerable citizens | HT Editorial – Editorials
India’s 21-day national shutdown has been a difficult time for all residents, to varying degrees. However, what went almost unnoticed is the plight of people with disabilities (PWD) in India. Reports of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities during the blockade forced the government to act to provide access to essential information and services, but have not yet been effectively implemented. The problem of inaccessibility, even under normal circumstances, is cause for concern, as 2.2% of India’s population, or 26.8 million people, suffer from some form of disability. A pandemic (Covid-19) only exacerbates this problem.
According to the World Health Organization, people with disabilities are at high risk of infection due to their physical, mental and cognitive impairments. Quarantine, social distancing and work from home are almost impossible due to their daily dependence on caregivers. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, mandates disaster management authorities to include persons with disabilities in their response to the crisis. To be sure, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment asked Union states and territories to make information about Covid-19 accessible, via audio tapes, braille, captioned videography, and sign language interpretation. But much is out of reach. Most markets, Covid-19 testing, and quarantine centers are not disabled-friendly, even though people with disabilities are at high risk.
Yes, the country is overwhelmed and its systems are burdened with an unprecedented emergency, but it must demarcate a clear chain of command for its vulnerable in their struggle. Ensure home deliveries of essential supplies, make areas more accessible, give people with disabilities the support system they need. India must disabled people to be more inclusive, especially now.