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Coronavirus / Covid-19 Guidelines for Persons with Disabilities

Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | April 6, 2020 (Last update: September 25, 2021)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website: www.lalitkumar.in

The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities has issued comprehensive disability inclusive guidelines to ensure protection and safety of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. While the public health crisis is universal to every human being at this stage, persons with disabilities fall under the vulnerable risk category due to their physical, sensory and cognitive limitations. Health ministry has issued several guidelines and advisories in this regard which can be accessed through the ministries website.

The Indian Government has declared COVID-19 as a National Disaster. Thus, necessary guidelines under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 have been issued to combat COVID-19 crisis. In the regard, the National Disaster Management Guidelines on Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction which issued in September 2019, will also be applicable. The aforesaid guidelines were issued in accordance with Section 8 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 which deals with equal protection and safety for persons with disabilities in these situations. The same section also empowers the Disaster Management Authorities at all the three levels (National-State-District) to take appropriate measures for inclusion of persons with disabilities in disaster management activities.

Thus, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, Disaster Management Act 2005 and guidelines issued by the health ministries, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities has suggested measures to ensure protection and safety of PWDs during the COVID-19 crisis. Gist of some important measures are as follows:-

  1. Information about COVID-19 to be made available in accessible formats like braille, audible tapes, video-graphic material with sub-titles, sign language and through accessible web sites. The Information so provided should be simple and in local languages.
  2. Sign language interpreters working in emergency and health settings should be given all the health and safety protections equivalent to that provided to other healthcare workers dealing with the pandemic.
  3. Emergency Response Services Teams to be trained on the rights of PWDs. They should be sensitized about the risk associated and problems related to specific impairments.
  4. COVID-19 awareness campaigns to include relevant information on provision of support to PWDs.
  5. Essential support services, personal assistance, and physical and communication accessibility should be ensured during the quarantine period.
  6. Caregivers of PwDs to be exempted from restrictions and passes to be provided easily and on priority during lockdown. The caregiver should also be provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  7. To ensure continued assistance, Resident Welfare Associations should be sensitized about the needs of PwDs. Accordingly, maids, caregivers and support providers to be allowed in the houses of PwDs after proper sanitization.
  8. Ensure access to essential food, medicine, water and other necessary items to PwDs. Provision for such essentials to be home-delivered during the quarantine period.
  9. In order to facilitate support during quarantine period, peer-support networks may be set up.
  10. To meet the daily requirements of PwDs easily, states/UTs may dedicate specific opening hours in retail stores to PwDs and older persons.
  11. For PwDs who are required to travel, Additional PPEs and travel passes should be given. They should be accordingly sensitized about their own safety and protection.
  12. Priority in treatment for PwDs and special care to children and women with disabilities.
  13. Employees with blindness and other severe disabilities should be exempted from essential service in both public and private sectors as the risk of infection is very high in PwDs.
  14. Exclusively PwDs dedicated online counseling and 24X7 Helpline at State level to be set. Helpline will have sign language facilities and video calling.
  15. The States/UTs may involve PwD organizations in preparation and dissemination of information material on COVID 19.

Mechanisms to resolve disability specific issues during the period by the State and District Commissioner for PwDs have also been provided in the guidelines.

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One response to “Coronavirus / Covid-19 Guidelines for Persons with Disabilities”

  1. Avatar Uma Gupta says:

    Really, sir, all information is very helpful for everybody like students, teachers, and researchers also. Best wishes for the future.

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