In times of Covid19 Pandemic
As India, and the whole world, is now passing through tremendous stress due to the COVID-19 crisis, and the consequent prolonged lockdown, that has affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The most affected are those living below the poverty line, which constitute around 20% of the national population (around 250 million people). Amongst these affected people, the deeply deprived people, constituting around 50 million of the national population, consist of persons with physical disability, vision impairment, hearing/speech impairment, persons with intellectual disability and poor mental health, elderly people in poor health, destitute women and a section of self-employed people with no skill and many more.
Although COVID-19 is being treated as a national disaster to facilitate a uniform and coordinated response, the overall response of the central and state governments was almost as diverse as disabilities. Various states announced various measures for relief and mitigation, as did the central government. None of these announcements were made in accessible formats, and many of them remained mere announcement. There is a general lack of accessible information around COVD-19. Most people have not been able to access helplines.
Moreover, there is no dedicated helpline for persons with disabilities, which makes it harder for them. This was also reflected during my survey for the digital outreach program for COVID-19 response. The department for persons with disabilities came up with an excellent set of guidelines but left it to the discretion of state and district authorities to act upon them.
We closed our center on 15th March in the line with the nationwide lockdown. We did quickly adapted ourselves to the new normal. Online zoom team meetings are now in place to discuss how we are going to continue to work towards our mission of inclusion for children with disabilities in the times of the Covid19 Pandemic.