Context: In the wake of the COVID-19 and the lockdown, the already arduous quest for health, safety, and security for many sections has been exacerbated by a lack of accessibility.
The plight of persons with disabilities during the pandemic
- In India, a study, “Locked Down and Left Behind,” documents the plight of persons with disabilities during this crisis.
- Of the total 1,067 respondents, 73% are facing severe challenges, namely with financial stability, access to essential items, adequate accommodation, and availability of healthcare.
- Health and safety concerns:
- There are significant impacts on the well-being of persons with disabilities.
- In particular, social isolation and limited access to accessible, adequate sanitation or isolation facilities threaten the health and safety of this already vulnerable section.
- Further reduction in access to services
- Persons with disabilities already struggle for equitable access to education, healthcare, transportation, and economic opportunities.
- The pandemic has further decreased access to these basic services and rights.
- Shortage of Trained People for Disables
- Thousands of families having disabled persons lack access to critical caretakers and domestic help, who play crucial roles in caring for a child or family member with a disability.
- Vulnerability of low-income countries
- The pandemic in fact presents an unprecedented challenge and an opportunity to change the course of accessibility in low- and middle-income countries in the post-pandemic world.
- Low- and middle-income countries that have already battled pressing challenges (mass migration, concurrent infections like TB, limited health infrastructure, etc).
- As the world continues to re-imagine a new ‘normal’ for its physical and social spaces, there is no proper thinking on providing accessibility.
- Inclusive planning:
- COVID-19 recovery plans need to include investments in urban planning, health facilities, and social spaces while considering accessibility.
- If accessibility is considered, these efforts can surely catalyze the vision of an inclusive world.
- Inclusive policy-making
- One of the important ways to achieve this is to begin including and involving persons with disabilities in decision and policy-making, for COVID-19 recovery and beyond.
- It can ensure representation on the matters that govern their lives.
- Other steps needed:
- There is a need to engage people to promote education and awareness on including persons with disabilities.
- Implementing accessibility laws and regulations; improving physical accessibility and universal design.
- Along with these reducing stigma; and developing the tools for individuals and communities to engage meaningfully with persons with disabilities should be the way.
Accessibility is a vital human right, and an accessible post-COVID world is one that will deliver justice to the minority population, without whom the path towards Sustainable Development Goals realization and universal health coverage will remain a distant goal.
Image Source: TH