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With the deepening inequalities during this pandemic, women and kids with disabilities, and their caregivers (usually women) face a much greater disadvantage.
As we observe the International Day of Disabilities on December 3rd, we must strive towards a ‘disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world’, according to the UN.
The onset of the pandemic has deepened the existing inequalities for persons with disabilities due to a lot of barriers that have come up in the COVID-19 response. It has created even bigger problems for kids and women with disabilities.
Given women’s biology and social realities, our needs are different and more complex than men, especially for women with disabilities. Many women with disabilities depend on caregivers, disability friendly infrastructure, therapy and many basic necessities, all of which have become difficult to access due to the implementation of several lockdown measures.
Even under normal circumstances, they face a lot of hurdles in availing these facilities. With the advent of COVID-19, accessing these necessary facilities have become even more difficult for them.
Caregivers, mostly who are women are under more stress than usual due to COVID-19. Many of them who are looking after an elderly person or a child are facing extra burden and burnout.
A lot of tasks that were earlier undertaken by facilities and other help personnel have now become their responsibilities since lockdown measures have become a barrier in availing those services. Moreover, some of them who are old and are looking after a person are at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Women with disabilities have been facing other challenges posed by the pandemic as well.
Due to the use of masks and other measures which cover the face, lip reading has become difficult for those with hearing disabilities.. A study has revealed that many women with disabilities are facing difficulties in accessing menstrual products too. Lack of access to clean water and clean toilets has become more difficult.
As for kids with disabilities, access to online mode of education has become a challenge. In many cases, many of them are not being able to attend online classes because of lack of access to electronic devices that can cater specifically to their needs.
Though in some cases, students with disabilities who do have access to electronic devices but no special assistance are being provided with captions or accessible text on their online classes.
More importantly, the sudden change in routine brought by COVID-19 and precautionary measures have been difficult for kids with physical and mental disabilities since they do not have access to day care centres and other outdoor places.
The current lockdown measures have proven even more difficult for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who have not been able to socially interact or go outdoors, two of the most important things necessary for their development. Even something we consider as simple – wearing a mask – can be a huge task and trigger for these kids.
As women and girls with disabilities often face barriers to their meaningful participation and inclusion in mainstream gender work; policies and programmes that are inclusive of their perspectives and needs must be formulated and implemented ; states must identify and eliminate obstacles to accessibility in health care facilities and basic necessities.
States must ensure to eliminate all hurdles brought by COVID-19 posing as a threat to the development of children with disabilities in different areas of their lives.
In order to move towards a more disability inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world, authorities must ensure the availability of accessible environments for women and kids with disabilities, since both of them are facing the effects of COVID-19 more than other people. States must provide financial compensations for self-employed women with disabilities who find their income reduced.
Image source: a still from Margarita with a Straw
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