POST TIME: 12 July, 2021 06:56:51 PM
Protecting people with disabilities during Covid-19 pandemic
In the wake of Covid-19, the students with disabilities have been excluded from virtual education. They find no scopes to cope with virtual education due to some unavoidable causes.
Alaul Alam

Protecting people with disabilities during Covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has added multifarious complexities to human life. Being a universal health crisis, people irrespective of class and creed are undergoing sufferings during the pandemic. But the level of sufferings is felt much more amid the poor and financially vulnerable communities. It is true that the marginalized people are the worst victims as in many cases they see nothing but endure the catastrophe and fatalities. The helpless state of the people with disabilities has increased many times during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The existing social set-up and the common attitudes of people make the people with disabilities understand that they are burden in society. The mainstream society hardly tries to change the lots of the deprived community undergoing many hardships in their life. It is common to notice that a great number of the marginalized people with disabilities hardly have access to the basic rights such as health, food, clothing, education and housing.

It is estimated that more than 1 billion people in the world are the people with disabilities enduring manifold vulnerabilities and denied of social inclusion. But Article 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) emphasizes that every country must have the responsibility to adopt all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the people with disabilities in any crisis including armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.

In Bangladesh context the estimate says that about 9.1% of the total population is the people undergoing some forms of disabilities. It is true that not only they are disabled by birth, in many cases they have experienced different forms of disabilities at any stage of their lives facing various difficulties. In the country to ensure the rights of the people with disabilities the government has introduced a law called the Persons with Disabilities Rights and Protection Act 2013.

But how far the law has ensured the rights of the people with disabilities?  Have the societal attitudes and discriminatory treatment towards the disabled population been stopped? In most cases the answer would be negative as social stigma still pervades that refrains the people with disabilities from including themselves in the mainstream of society.

During the Covid-19, it is true that many people with disabilities have been deserted by their family members. More often we notice that many children consider their parents with disabilities burden and take them to the old homes and deny services to their parents. Contrarily, many families are found struggling with their children with disabilities as in many cases children with disabilities hardly have any access to the mainstream of education. It is estimated that more than 190 millions of children with disabilities are isolated from the school community which disrupts their usual trend of education.

In the wake of Covid-19, the students with disabilities have been excluded from virtual education. They find no scopes to cope with virtual education due to some unavoidable causes. But the situation states that we hardly have any concerns over ensuring education for the students with disabilities amid this crisis finding adaptable virtual education for them.

It is true that over the years government and non-government along with international welfare organizations are vigilant to stand by the persons with disabilities. Specially, they are engaging the youth population with disabilities into different income generation activities. In many cases, social organizations and different NGOs provide different trainings to make them efficient with the knowledge on small farming and self-reliant works.

In this regard, different NGOs and banks provide them financial support to some extent though the majority is denied of the services from the state and organizations as in many cases this service hardly reach to the target population. Apart from that, many are hardly aware of the services provided to them by the state and society.

During the pandemic thousands of people with disabilities started small business or farming are undergoing unprecedented economic shocks as their business has been on the verge of extinction enduring lockdown and many more crisis caused by the pandemic.

Not only the disabled engaged in small business, a great number of people dependent on the alms form people in the street of the cities and rural sides hardly see any scopes to lead livelihoods. Market shutdown and restriction of movement of the public has put the vulnerable alms seeking community in to great despondency. Again, things get tougher when we see that they are suffering from different diseases and see no scopes to reach medical facilities in many cases. As they are indifferent to follow health guidelines and hardly have knowledge on health hygiene, they are easily infected with Covid-19.

The aged people with disabilities are bearing the most brunt of it. Apart from this, many are surviving with chronic diseases that can cause death or lifelong sufferings. They have not been included in social security. Even they confine themselves to their own community disregarding the privileges provided by the state.

However, it is praiseworthy that apart from cash transfer and food facilities to the marginalized people social safety net programs are ongoing to address the vulnerability of the persons with disabilities but due to many limitations all the marginalized people have not come under the coverage of the government allowance. It is really tough for a government to provide every support for the target population until the affluent class and private investors come forward and try to mitigate the economic hardships of the vulnerable communities who are subjected to undergoing many threats.

The writer teaches at Prime University. He is also a research scholar at the IBS. Email: [email protected]