“What worries me perhaps more than anything is just the existing barriers that people with disabilities face. I can speak for this myself, personally”, said Lindsay Lee, who uses a wheelchair, a WHO Technical Officer.
“These things, if Governments and communities aren’t careful, can be exacerbated in crisis situations,” she said. “But if the whole community is willing to do its part, these sorts of risks can certainly be mitigated”. said Lee
So far, there have been more than 200,000 cases worldwide, and over 8,000 deaths.
Ms. Lee explained that persons with disabilities experience increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Some may have difficulties in implementing basic hygiene measures to keep the virus at bay. Others may not be able to practice social distancing because they require care or other support.
Additionally, some persons with disabilities who contract the virus could develop a severe case of the disease as it can worsen existing health conditions, particularly related to immune response or respiratory function.
As countries continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, persons with disabilities deserve to be reassured that their survival is a priority, a UN independent human rights expert has stated.
“People with disabilities feel they have been left behind”, said Catalina Devandas Aguilar, UN Special Rapporteur
“Access to additional financial aid is also vital to reduce the risk of people with disabilities and their families falling into greater vulnerability or poverty,” she added.
“Many people with disabilities depend on services that have been suspended and may not have enough money to stockpile food and medicine, or afford the extra cost of home deliveries.”
Both Ms. Lee and Ms. Devandas stressed that during the current outbreak, authorities must provide public health information that is accessible to people with disabilities, such as using sign language, captioning, text messages and relay services.