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“We need to change the language around COVID-19.”

April 2020
Shikuku Obosi sits, smiling at the camera.

Sightsavers’ disability inclusion adviser, Shikuku Obosi, urges journalists and government officials to use disability-friendly language when discussing COVID-19 in a new comment piece published in the media.

In the online media platform Devex, Shikuku challenges articles and speeches which seek to reassure audiences by saying it is “only” elderly and chronically ill people who are at serious risk of COVID-19.

As someone who grew up with a disability in Kenya, Shikuku argues such language is misguided and can worsen anxieties for people who are at an increased risk.

“The message that I take from this is that there are certain people who are ‘acceptable losses’… who are considered to be more disposable,” he writes. “The language used at times… seems to ignore the fact that the people being talked about as ‘vulnerable’ may also be reading the same articles.”

Dom Haslam, Sightsavers’ deputy CEO, says: “Shikuku’s argument is powerful and highlights why not only universal healthcare but an inclusive approach to all aspects of life are critical.

“We stand with the World Health Organization when we say that no matter who you are or where you come from, everyone is entitled to access quality healthcare on an equal basis.”

Read the full piece here on Devex.

People with disabilities are often left behind and Sightsavers is making it a priority to prevent that from happening with the COVID-19 response. We are doing this by ensuring we shine a spotlight on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, who could be disproportionally affected, both in terms of potentially being more at risk and less able to access health services, and also in terms of the impact on the support services they require.

COVID-19: a note from Global CEO Caroline Harper

CEO Caroline Harper explains what Sightsavers is doing to protect our staff and the communities in all the countries where we work.

Read the statement

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