While the lockdown period has made stranded migrants, senior citizens, people with comorbidity more vulnerable to the deadly virus, people with disabilities are also undergoing the same situation. For those who are visually impaired, hearing impaired or those with physical disabilities, the lockdown has not only made their daily life miserable but has also led to panic, anxiety, fear and depression.
Many disabilities result in individuals being at higher risk in case they get coronavirus. For example, its common for those with spinal cord injuries to have compromised pulmonary functions or those with muscular dystrophy to have lower diaphragm function leading to lung problems making them particularly vulnerable to coronavirus.
For people with disability, especially wheel-chair users or bed ridden patients who depend on care takers, life has become a nightmare with no one to take care of them 24*7. Most of the care takers or helpers refuse to continue their work due to many reasons. Hence, people with disabilities are unable to take precautions like washing hands repeatedly.
“Since all the members are at home, they shifted my bed to a roof shed which earlier was a bathroom cum lavatory. I have no other way to live my life but to consider the roof shed as my home, laments Lakshmi (name changed) who is physically disabled after a spinal cord injury.” “With summer setting in, life is going to be miserable on the roof shed and I feel panicked,” she added.
People with disabilities have also said that they are more susceptible to viruses and other ailments. Sai Padma who runs Global Aid for the physically disabled people, said, “As a person with disability, I need to take utmost care because I have low immunity. I am a Polio survivor and I have been suffering from spinal scoliosis which has effected my lungs. I fear that if I get sick, my husband can’t even take me to the hospital without support of two more people literally lifting me from my wheelchair.”
She added, “I appeal to protect persons with disabilities in the time of a crisis and to also help us with testing.”
Most of the disabled cannot take all the Coronavirus precautions. “Even though I wash my hands 20 times a day, immediately I have to touch my wheelchair to function and move. I am confused as there is no care taker and I do not know what to do in such situations,” said Prasad who is suffering from severe arthritis and psoriasis.
Dilip Patro who is wheel-chair bound and runs a rehabilitation centre in the city, said, “For a person with a physical disability like me, social distancing is impossible due to the dependence on others to fulfil physiological requirements. I cannot independently wash my hands without getting into physical contact with our attendants or caretakers as we are physically incapable of it. Besides, it is much tougher to regularly wash our hands in public due to the lack of toilets for Persons with disabilities.”
“We also need to think on a few policies to ensure persons with disability are given basic facilities in case their primary care giver is quarantined,” added Dilip.