Disabled left in the lurch, need inclusion during pandemic: Report

New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) As the country continues to remain locked down for the last two months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, India’s ‘Divyangs’ have been left in the lurch, a survey report said on Wednesday.
A survey conducted by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), a Delhi-based NGO, said: “Many of the challenges confronting persons with disabilities during lockdown could have been addressed had the government duly enforced its own directives”.
The report, ‘Locked Down and Left Behind’ focuses on the status of persons with disabilities in India during the Covid-19 crisis. It includes data from a survey of 1,067 people (73% male and the rest female) with disabilities. The figures showed that over 73% of those interviewed were facing severe challenges on account of the lockdown.
Interviews with a sub-sample of 201 persons with disabilities showed that 67% had no access to doorstep delivery of essentials, and only 22% confirmed that they have access to essentials. As many as 48% had no access to a government helpline, and 63% had not received any financial assistance.
Many survey respondents living in remote areas said they did not receive any relief announced by the government. “The government grassroots workers do not want to come to such a remote area. Pradeep, one of the respondents, was unable to get medical necessities such as urobag, catheter and CIC pipes, and when he dialled the emergency number 112, he was told to ask his neighbour for help,” the report said.
Similarly, Moin had no access to medical treatment where he lived, and had to travel 40km to Ahmedabad to get his ear treated, the report stated, adding these and other similar issues could have been taken care of if the ‘Comprehensive Disability Inclusive Guidelines’ issued by the Central government’s Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) had been uniformly enforced across India.
Speaking to IANS, Arman Ali, Executive Director of NCPEDP said, “The report gives you a glimpse of the hardships the disabled are going through during Covid-19 in India. It recommends implementation and enforcement of Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DIDRR) guidelines.”
He said these are government rules they can not ignore in a national disaster situation.
The DEPwD guidelines provide for ensuring that persons with disabilities are given access to food, water, medicine, preferably at their residence or place where they have been quarantined.”
According to the guidelines, caregivers should be allowed to reach persons with disabilities by exempting them from restrictions during lockdown or providing passes in a simplified manner on priority. Continuation of support services for persons with disabilities with minimum human contact should also be ensured.
The guidelines also say that all information about Covid-19 should be available in simple and in local language in accessible formats and a 24X7 helpline number at state level should be set up exclusively for persons with disabilities with facilities of sign language interpretation and video calling.
The report, however, stated that some states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Nagaland are doing a commendable job for the PwDs.
“There are more people with disabilities in India than the entire populations of Ireland, New Zealand, Austria, Uruguay and Kuwait. All the might and reach of the government is needed to provide relief to such vast numbers,” said Ali.
“The government must secure inclusive response and mitigation not just in the present crisis, but also in any subsequent wave that may well hit us sooner than we think,” he said, adding, “it is only when we are inclusive, and determined to build back Better, that we will be truly atmanirbhar (self-reliant).”

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