There are currently more than 2 billion disabled people in the World, which is 37.5% of the world’s population. In India, 2.21 % of people out of the total population are disabled. Disabled communities, elderly populations, and people with chronic health conditions are the worst hit by Covid-19.
Government of India had not thought of PWDs before imposing lockdown. Ever since the lockdown was announced on March 24, disabled people have been struggling to perform even the daily chores.
Because most of the PWDs are largely dependent on the caregivers. Due to lockdown and coronavirus, their caregivers are not ready to help them. PWDs’ support system has stopped suddenly. Nobody has thought about how these people are managing their life in this pandemic.
People with disabilities are facing multiple challenges during the lockdown and coronavirus
- Buying groceries have been difficult for some disabled people because they depend on others for support and transportation. Due to this pandemic, no one is ready to support them.
- Some disabled people can’t isolate themselves because they need regular, hands-on help from other people to do everyday self-care tasks and need physiotherapy from time to time.
- PWDs have been facing the difficulties to cook meals and clean the house every day. They have to manage everything on their own. It is the biggest challenge for them physically and mentally.
- The main challenge for PWDs is how to know which things, doors, walls are sanitized as they need regular support while walking. How can disable people sanitize their wheelchair?
GOI has announced to help disabled persons but no initiatives have taken to know the conditions of them, how they are managing their life in such a situation?
Unique Challenges PWDs will Face in their life post lockdown
For the hearing impaired, especially those who are not literate, they cannot hear the message or read it. Because many depend on lip-reading, they have to compromise with a person who is wearing a mask while giving a message.
In post lockdown, they will face this challenge every time to communicate with everyone or especially buying necessary items.
- People with visual impairment and blindness depend upon touch for most of their daily activities. They need to hold the hand of an escort to move around; they cannot read the messages that the rest of the population can see; they cannot practice social distancing. This is the most difficult challenge for them because nobody will allow them to hold their hands in the time of the corona world.
- Some Handicapped People like who have polio disease have been suffering a lot in this situation because they need their caregivers all time which is not possible due to this virus. This is the toughest situation for them to handle all work like cook meals, cleaning the house, going outside to buy groceries, creeping on-ramp without any support.
Except for these issues, the main challenging problem is to follow GOI guidelines i.e avoid touching. These PWDs need regular support either seating on a bike or open the door so it is difficult for them to follow GOI guidelines.
3. Students with disabilities who need caregivers to go to their class with the help of their school/college mate will also face a situation because no parents would allow their children to touch anybody. Even student with disabilities also needs to be provided support so that they can keep up academically. So the online teaching programs for them should also be available in an accessible format.
Experiencing Discrimination before and after the lockdown
Disabled people are not only the most deprived human beings in the developing world, but they also are the most neglected. Thus people with disabilities are vulnerable because of the many barriers they face like attitudinal, physical, and financial. Especially no helpers’ support in such worst situation.
Hospital Issues- PWDs people have been facing the same problem which they face before the lockdown. They have to stand in the queue for a checkup. It is quite difficult for disabled persons, especially for handicapped people. Another issue is the parking problem. In many places or hospitals might have special parking for them but at the time of usage, authorities tell them to park your vehicles in normal parking or sometimes they ask PWDs to park so far from the main gate which is very difficult for them to walk through. How can these disable person manage?
Local store issues-Some local stores in India have not any facilities for Handicapped persons like wheelchair facility, ramps, stairs climbing and other PWDs.No railing support to hold or going upstairs.
Women with disabilities have additional issues. They face a worse situation when men’s families demand for dowry according to their disability. If the disabled woman’s family does not accept their demand then no one is ready to marry a disabled woman.
Besides this, they are vulnerable to exploitation and even more so during a pandemic. Many of them have children without disability and are highly stressed as to how they can care for their children and family members because they are not supported to care for them.
People with communication disabilities don’t know how to express their problems. Routine health needs that they have are also not provided as health centres or transportation facilities are not accessible.
Admission in School Issue: While taking admission in school many disabled persons face problems because no school allows them to take admission due to need of extra care.In case, they get admission they have to face further problems while attending classes. It is very difficult for them to go from one block to another block. Half of the period time goes in their walking.No one like to become their friends.
We can imagine how badly disabled people are suffering because of not having any support system in this pandemic.
Government’s Measures which are not fully implemented
On March 27, the Indian government released an advance pension of three months’ to the differently-abled amid the 21-day lockdown. The initiative included a fixed amount of Rs 300 per month for PwDs up to 79 years of age, and Rs 500 for those whose age goes beyond 80 years and more.
Besides this, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman declared an exgratia of Rs 1,000 for the disabled over the next three months, due to be allotted in two instalments.
Though these relief measures are a silver lining, there is a lack of clarity on the process of applying and obtaining the benefits, according to many. In fact, some disabled persons who have not disability certificate cannot take advantage of these schemes. Even who have certificate face many problems while claiming benefits provided by the government. Besides this, they have to update their disability certificate regularly in the given time period.
If a person is permanent disable then why permanently disabled persons need to update a certificate of their disability every time?
Relief Package for short period only
The biggest relief has provided by GOI is special paid leaves to PWDs who are government employees during the lockdown period only. Now the question is during lockdown 0.1 government of India was giving such reliefs, now today corona cases have been crossed 3 lakhs, Will government provide such relief further when PWDs need the most when they have no helping hand to move anywhere?
How to help PWDs?
- The general public needs to be educated on providing support for people with disabilities. Even parents and teachers should teach their children to respect them and how to deal with them.
- The GOI should provide some necessary facilities to PwDs like door-to-door delivery of groceries.
- Decreasing waiting time in hospitals for them will reduce contact with other asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus or frank cases.
- Their medicine needs have to be provided. Mobile health teams can provide services at home rather than they travel to hospitals.
- A dedicated helpline can be set up for this so that the medical team can reach them. They need to be assured of supplies of soap or sanitizer and tissues.
- GOI should provide the same facility which has provided by Australia i.e reserved a separate time slot in supermarkets only for PWDs and senior citizens.
- In Indian malls, no one is ready to help handicapped people while buying goods. How one handicapped person can manage to carry goods while walking? The government should think about their condition and should provide electronic wheelchairs in every mall for disable persons like foreign countries are providing so that they don’t have to depend on their supporters.
- No agency like Honda takes initiative to help handicapped people by making special vehicles for them. Thus special design vehicles should be provided to disabled persons or subsidiaries must be provided.
If these facilities give to them then more than 50% of PWDs will manage their life in Post lockdown.
Now is the time PwDs need a helping hand and some relief,” says Arman Ali, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP).
People with disabilities need much more support than others in the face of a pandemic. We would fail as a human race if we don’t show a humane response equitably with affirmative action for people with disabilities.