Limited access to doorstep delivery of essentials, government helplines and financial assistance from the government were among the key problems faced by persons with disability, according to a report on ‘status of persons with disabilities in India during the COVID-19 crisis’, released by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) on Thursday.
The report included responses from 19 disability sector leaders across the States and recommended enforcing the government guidelines and securing financial support to all persons with disabilities.
“Many of the challenges confronting persons with disabilities during the lockdown could have been addressed had the government duly enforced its own directives”, the report said.
The report comprised data from a survey of 1,067 (approx. 73% male, 27% female) persons with disabilities, which showed that over 73% of those interviewed were facing severe challenges due to the lockdown.
Interviews with a sub-sample of 201 persons with disabilities from across India showed that 67% had no access to doorstep delivery of essentials, and only 22% confirmed that they have access to essentials. 48% had no access to a government helpline, and 63% had not received the financial assistance for persons with disabilities announced by the Finance Ministry.
The report stated that 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 the country.
The guidelines provided for such critical requirements as ensuring that “persons with disabilities are 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.”
As per the NCPEDP report, some States, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland and Assam did provide good support to those with disabilities.
K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) said that persons with disabilities were particularly vulnerable during periods of lockdown as their usual difficulties in securing services or procuring essential goods were greatly amplified. It was absolutely essential that the administration paid special attention to their needs. Usual caregivers too were immobile during a lockdown and even persons with low levels of dependency were hindered by the restraint. “The attention we pay to the pressing needs of persons with disability is the hallmark of a sensitive society and the symbol of caring administration.”
Arman Ali, executive director, NCPEDP, said 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’.