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#DisabilityC19 Twitter chat

Andrea Pregel, April 2020

Lots of people are taking to Twitter in these uncertain times to share resources and offer support. On Monday 6 April, Sightsavers joined the #DisabilityC19 Twitter chat to share our knowledge and discuss the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on people with disabilities.

The chat was run by ARISE, a project which improves healthcare provision across informal settlements. Like Sightsavers, they are concerned that many at-risk groups – such as those with disabilities and chronic conditions – will suffer greater consequences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chat sparked lots of thought-provoking conversations about the greater risk people with disabilities face, how to make the global response more inclusive and the impact on daily life for people with disabilities.

The only way that we can fight COVID-19 is if we all ensure that we leave no one behind; people with disabilities and long-term health conditions are a vital part of ensuring that we can collectively do that. In case you missed it, here are some of the main points that came out from the conversations.

Increased risk for people with disabilities

We know that older people and those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, fall into a greater risk group for contracting the virus and are likely to have more severe symptoms if they get ill. Many people with disabilities also have underlying health conditions and face higher risks due to the barriers they face in society. For example, handwashing facilities might not be accessible and living in isolation may be impossible for someone who relies on others to help them with their daily needs. @JosephEtyang7, a deaf health worker from Kenya, pointed out that there is lack of accessible information, education and communication in signed languages, braille, pictorials and plain language. Others highlighted the difficulties of those with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities in accessing healthcare information.

Including people with disabilities in the global response

It’s essential that we listen to people with disabilities so we know how to respond in a useful, inclusive way.

It’s also crucial that data collected on the disease is disaggregated by groups such as age, sex and disability so that we can build a clear picture of how the disease is impacting different groups.

Stigma and discrimination

Across the world, people with disabilities face stigma and discrimination in their daily lives. Now, we are beginning to see how the outbreak is exacerbating this. Accessing support and care is harder for people with disabilities and with many countries now on lockdown, lots of people are finding that their previous support has diminished. Stigma could also worsen a person’s chances of receiving medical assistance and recovering from the disease.

Education

There are also fears that the pandemic could have long-term negative impacts on education. School-age children with disabilities frequently face exclusion and discrimination in the classroom and now, if their education is not prioritised, there is a danger that they may miss out entirely.

A woman washes the dishes outside.

Available tools and resources

There is a wealth of resources and information being produced, disseminated and collected by various organisations  around the world. Here are some recommendations:

 

Author


Andrea Pregel.Andrea Pregel
Andrea is a programme adviser at Sightsavers and is based in the UK.

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