The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has brought in its wake several unwanted firsts.
Millions of people have been working from homes for days on due to lockdowns prescribed to keep the deadly disease at bay.
Mass-scale social distancing is being practiced.
It is on its way to remain a norm across the world in the coming months too.
The emotionally-disturbing hardships and experiences of able-bodied people are actually experiences that People with Disabilities experience day- to-day in societies.
For the disabled and elderly people, the 21st century’s second pandemic has brought in its wake several disadvantages.
They are at higher risk of contracting flu-like virus due to barriers in accessing preventive information and hygiene, reliance on physical contact with the support persons, and respiratory conditions caused by certain impairments. They also have an increased risk given inaccessible healthcare systems in several countries.
Imagine their plight of not being able to follow basic hygiene measures like frequent hand-washing because wash-basins or sinks largely being physically inaccessible or they having physical difficulty rubbing their hands together thoroughly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says people with disabilities, depending on their underlying health conditions, are at greater risk of developing more severe cases of Covid-19 if they become infected.
Experts say social distancing and self-isolation is practical for those disabled people who has, and can get, support of others to eat, dress and bathe. Differently-abled people are now working hard on their own to ease their burden.
Noble prize-winner economist, Amartya Sen, says disabled people are the most-deprived and neglected human beings in the world. About 15 per cent of the world’s population of over one billion people lives with various forms of disability, including 50 in the 22 Middle Eastern countries.
A large chunk of disabled people, give their disturbing health profile, have to frequently visit hospitals and rehabilitation centres. Lockdowns and not-availability of care-givers makes the ground realities harsh.
As the coronavirus is highly contagious, they cannot be expected of getting the ‘normal’ time care and practices. People with visual disabilities have increased risk of infection as they rely on “touch” functions for mobility and work.
According to World Economic Forum (WEF), the world now needs to redesign the system again post-Covid-19 to create full inclusion from the very outset. In a time of crisis, the specific needs of the disability community are being overlooked.
Previous experiences have shown us health inequities worsen during epidemics and pandemics. People with certain disabilities like muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy or any other condition from genetic abnormalities are likely to have respiratory disorders.
Catching coronavirus could seriously imperil their lives. Blind people use physical contact to navigate around. They rely on braille and tactile markings in unknown spaces, feeling their way through things. Likewise, individuals with certain physical disabilities are unable to wash their hands or sanitize their surroundings.
The WHO feels the needs of disabled people have seldom been addressed during the outbreaks. It is now bringing it to light by speaking about it on public platforms. According to its guidance document, the direct limits on their safety and health include barriers to implementing basic hygiene measures, difficulty in enacting social distancing and the need to touch things to obtain information from the environment or for physical support. Other considerations with serious implications also include access to both healthcare and public health information.
It wants to families and friends to make sure a person’s assistive products are properly disinfected. These include wheelchairs, walking canes, walkers, transfer boards, white canes, or any other product that is frequently handled and used in public spaces.
WHO says people are disabled by society, not just by their bodies.
Disabled people are used to challenges and knows way to overcome them. Coronavirus is the latest to test their toughness.