New Delhi: The government on Friday issued a “comprehensive disability inclusive guidelines” to all the states and Union Territories (UTs) for protection and safety of persons with disabilities in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has issued the guidelines as persons with disabilities are more vulnerable to novel coronavirus (Covid-19) due to their physical, sensory and cognitive limitations.
The guidelines stress on the need to understand disability-specific requirements, daily living activities and appropriate and timely measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disability in risk situations.
The guidelines outlined that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) at the district, state and national levels should take measures to include persons with disabilities in disaster management activities and to keep them duly informed about these.
These authorities are mandatorily required to involve the concerned state commissioner for persons with disabilities during disaster management activities. In September 2019, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had issued National Disaster Management Guidelines on Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR).
The latest order follows the March 24 guidelines issued by the Home Ministry to various authorities to prevent the spread of Covid-19 for a period of 21 days starting March 25.
It has been advised that all information about Covid-19, services offered and precautions to be taken, should be available in simple and local language in accessible formats –in Braille and audible tapes for persons with visual impairment, video-graphic material with sub-titles and sign language interpretation for persons with hearing impairment and through accessible web sites.
It is stressed that the sign language interpreters who work in emergency and health settings should be given the same health and safety protection as other healthcare workers dealing with Covid-19 cases.
“All persons responsible for handling emergency response services should be trained on the rights of persons with disabilities, and on risks associated with additional problems for persons having specific impairments,” the guidelines mentioned.
Relevant information on support to persons with disabilities should be part of all awareness campaigns, the guidelines said.
During quarantine, essential support services, personal assistance and physical and communication accessibility should be ensured for blind persons and persons with intellectual or mental disability.
Caregivers of persons with disabilities should be allowed to reach persons with disabilities by exempting them from restrictions during the lockdown period or by providing them with passes in a simplified manner on priority.
To ensure continuation of support services for persons with disabilities with minimum human contact, due publicity needs to be given to ensure personal protective equipment for the caregivers.
The Resident Welfare Associations should be sensitised about the needs of persons with disabilities so as to allow entry of maid, caregiver and other support staff to their residences after following due sanitising procedure, the guidelines mentioned.
“Persons with disabilities should be given access to essential food, water, medicine, and, to the extent possible, such items should be delivered at their residence or place where they have been quarantined,” the guidelines said.
The states and UTs may consider reserving specific opening hours in retail provision stores, including super markets, for persons with disabilities and elderly persons for ensuring easy availability of their daily requirements, said the guidelines.