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10 May, 2020 10:20:41 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 10 May, 2020 10:22:28 AM

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Addressing the problems of persons with disabilities in Covid-19 pandemic

It is necessary to ensure that resources and information about the spread of this virus are accessible to people who are speech, hearing, visually impaired and/or have intellectual disabilities.
Mehedi Hasan
Addressing the problems of persons with disabilities in Covid-19 pandemic

The number of COVID-19 patients is increasing globally. With more than 3,085,079 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the world, and almost 212,533 deaths, the world is witnessing an unprecedented health pandemic declared by Word Health Organization (WHO).

Millions of people around the world are continuing to live under restrictions. Everyone is being requested to stay at home and be safe from being infected with the coronavirus. But unlike the persons with non-disabilities, how are the persons with disabilities passing their lives in COVID-19 outbreaks?

Persons with disabilities are uniquely vulnerable to the disruptive consequences of COVID-19. Although the ongoing crisis is unprecedented, it is important to remember that Article 11 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006, Rights and Protection Act, 2013 provide that states shall take “all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.”

BRIDGE Foundation was formed in 2013 by launching a unique project named “IT for Differently Abled”. This project aims to enhance the IT education and skills of differently-abled young people of society. BRIDGE Foundation believes that differently-abled people are capable of earning for their families. With this credence, this organization started working with people who have Physical, Speech, Hearing and Intellectual disability. BRIDGE Foundation’s mission is to empower and promote Physical, Speech, Hearing and Intellectual disability people.

BRIDGE Foundation conducted an online survey to assess the perception of persons with disabilities on COVID 19 preparedness. This survey was conducted with 73 disabilities. In the study, 60 (82.2%) male and 13 (17.8%) female responses were collected across Bangladesh from 3rd April to 10th April 2020. The samples are randomly selected from the list of people with disabilities and a previous survey conducted by the BRIDGE Foundation. Purposive sampling was followed to take interviews with experts. Among the samples, about 49.3% has physical disability, 45.2% has speech and hearing disability, 2.7% has visual and 2.7% has intellectual disabilities. An outbreak of pandemic is a real challenge. It is estimated that around 15% of the Bangladesh population has some form of disability (WHO, 2018).

At the time of writing this article, Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj have been identified as epicenter of coronavirus in Bangladesh. Three (03) divisions, forty-eight (48) districts and three hundred and eighty-eight (388) upazilas are now fully lockdown (IEDCR, 2020). Due to the lockdown situation persons with disabilities' daily routine, which is vitally important, is completely broken. It is the biggest challenge at this time of lockdown for persons with disabilities to understand what is happening outside especially speech, and hearing disability persons who need the assistance of sign language. The survey finds that 72.6% are aware of the coronavirus. Social media like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc. (84.9%) and Television (78.1%) have both become a lifeline for information on coronavirus update. The Bangladesh Television (BTV) and the news bulletin of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) have sign language interpreter.

According to Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), social distancing means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of home (CDC, 2020). It is also called “physical distancing”. To practice social distancing, it is mandatory to stay at least 6 feet (2 meter) away from other. We already know that social distancing is very important in this crisis to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Most of the respondents think that staying at home is the safest way. The survey finds that 80.8% are following the rules like social distancing, washing hands for 20 seconds, staying at home, wearing masks to curb transmission to prevent the coronavirus instructed by the government, and WHO guidelines. The study also finds that 84.9% of the families have the awareness of COVID-19 where 15.1% of the families are not taking seriously for persons with disabilities.

Amid this pandemic, businesses are shutting down. Employers are not joining the workplace to maintain social distancing. According to the study, 47.9% was the only earning member of their family. The average family size of the respondent is 5.4. Among them, 61.1% have no income due to Coronavirus outbreaks. If the pandemic situation runs for a long time, they will face a huge economic crisis to maintain the family of an average of five members. Work from home is challenging for many persons with disabilities. Because they have never been adequately supported to use technology and access it. So, it is a big challenge for persons with disabilities working remotely.

Md. Firoj Uddin is an activist on persons with disability eights and laws and apprentice lawyer of Bangladesh Supreme Court opined that many of unemployed and jobless PWDs are seeking relief to survive but insufficient relief, mismanagement, less involvement of PWDs in relief activities made physical competition which turned the PWDs more vulnerable than non-disabled persons. Besides allotment of sufficient of relief for PWDs, the government, NGO, voluntary organizations should include PDWs in their relief activities to get rid of the relief mismanagement.

And right now, we must not forget the specific needs of persons with disabilities. It is necessary to ensure that resources and information about the spread of this virus are accessible to people who are speech, hearing, visual and/or have intellectual disabilities. Besides, there should be options for people who are infected or positive in coronavirus and have physical disabilities to be transported to hospitals and testing sites. We need to pay special attention so that persons with disabilities can have social distancing. We have to ensure employment for persons with disabilities who may lose their job as a result of lockdowns, social distancing or other pandemic-caused economic disruptions.

The writer is Executive Member, BRIDGE Foundation
Email: mehedi122@gmail.com

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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