Mind, involve disabled during Covid-19 pandemic

A person with disability begging for alms on Kimathi Street in Nairobi on January 12, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Many persons with disability live in overcrowded residential areas in informal urban settings, where they face neglect, abuse and inadequate healthcare.

  • The government should urgently identify and attend to such people, many of whom have secondary conditions that make them more vulnerable.

  • Without swift action by the government to include persons with disability in the Covid-19 response, they’ll remain at high risk of infection and death.

The Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disability and the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility have called for inclusion and the effective participation of all persons with disability in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Kenya, the disability movement has called upon the government to protect the rights of persons with disability even as it fights the coronavirus. Persons with disability have equal rights to self-determination, independence and autonomy, education and employment as the rest. But the breakdown of vital support systems and networks due to the pandemic exacerbates the obstacles that they face in exercising these rights.

It’s crucial that a prolonged disruption does not result in rollbacks of the gains in the advancement of universal human rights, including disability rights. Amid the rapidly spreading pandemic, information is essential for people to make the right decisions about how to protect themselves and access necessities and services during quarantine and self-isolation.

The information provided regularly, especially through the Ministry of Health updates, does not reach a proportion of the society that cannot interact with electronic and print media, like persons with disability.

To ensure they’re not deprived of life-saving information, communication strategies should include qualified sign language interpretation for televised announcements.

Also include websites that people with the related disabilities can access and telephone-based services that have text capabilities for people who cannot hear or hearing-impaired and use plain language to maximise understanding.

Many persons with disability live in overcrowded residential areas in informal urban settings, where they face neglect, abuse and inadequate healthcare. The government should urgently identify and attend to such people, many of whom have secondary conditions that make them more vulnerable.

Without swift action by the government to include persons with disability in the Covid-19 response, they’ll remain at high risk of infection and death.

There’s a need to ensure that community-based social support is strengthened to support persons with disability to meet their basic daily needs — including for meals and hygiene. The government should also ensure access for persons with disability to health services and provide them with the same range, quality and standard of healthcare, including mental health services, as the rest.

Priority should be given to addressing poverty, which persons with disability disproportionately face. They should access food subsidies and other means of social protection as necessary.

Most importantly, the government, in protecting persons with disability during this crisis, will need to consult with them regularly to make sure policies and practice in regard to the pandemic meet their needs. They should be effectively and meaningfully involved in the design and implementation of awareness and public education drives.

Mr Gitonga is the executive director, United Disabled Persons of Kenya. anderson.gitonga@udpkenya.or.ke.