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. 

Way ahead

  • 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