Fifteen percent of adults in Kenya have some type of disability. These disabilities may impact mobility, cognition, the ability to live independently, hearing, vision or the ability to care for one’s self. Nearly one in four women have a disability, and half of all individuals with a disability live out of the cities.
Disability is a natural part of the human experience that in no way diminishes one’s right to fully participate in all aspects of community life. While many states have worked to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities through initiatives focused employment, education, transportation and other needs, now more than ever it is important that states address the rights and needs of persons with disabilities in the wake of the COVID-19 planning and response.
States have taken critical steps to ensure safety, including school closures, crowd limits, state curfews and restaurant and bar closures, among other measures. However, it is important that states consider the potential effects on their more vulnerable citizens.
While persons with disabilities are not inherently at a greater risk for contracting COVID-19, they may be more affected by disruption of services, including:
Persons with disabilities may have a challenge with social distancing as some rely heavily on community-based and in-home service provision. Service provision ranges across many categories, including anything from therapy to delivery of goods, meals and medications. States leaders should think strategically about how to ensure services continue to the most vulnerable populations, including the development of plans for food distribution, care for those in quarantine or prescription delivery. Continuity of operations for services and supplies that assist persons with disabilities and older adults is critical for ensuring individuals maintain their health, safety, dignity and independence.
All counties have closed public and private schools. Lack of access to regular school days can be particularly challenging for thousands of students with disabilities. School days can provide valuable structure, development, training and sense of community. E-learning technology can be used to provide students with high-quality educational instruction during an extended school closure. However, online instruction materials should be provided through adapted accessible communication strategies.
There is an equity concern where students with disabilities from rural settings might not be able to access these facilities given lack of internet, electricity and the overall facilitative infrastructure.
Persons with disabilities must have access to credible and timely information. Any changes to systems which provide services, affect living or employment arrangements or can help individuals minimize their risk of infection must be communicated to all members of the community.
It is critical that state agencies provide public information in a way that is accessible for the most members of the community. State leaders should consider using the following tools to ensure accessibility of information:
Persons with disabilities are a critical part of the state workforce. Yet, a significant percentage of people with disabilities have difficulties finding, securing and retaining employment. In a time where many individuals are facing possibility of unemployment, state governments must work to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to continue to work or return to work following social distancing.
To facilitate continued employment, states may want to consider promoting the use of teleworking policies.
Policymakers can also continue to develop innovative workforce policies and strategic workforce development plans, ensuring that persons with disabilities also have access to high quality meaningful employment opportunities.
All individuals with disabilities are not at higher health risk for contracting COVID-19. However, many individuals with weakened immune systems or those with disabilities that affect their respiratory capacity may be at a higher risk of serious illness or death from a COVID-19 infection
Currently, hospitals across the country are experiencing shortages of life saving equipment, including ventilators, personal protective equipment and other critical tools. There are concerns that the lack of capacity within the Kenyan healthcare system will result in “rationing of life saving care for individuals with pre-existing illnesses and disabilities.
Within medical institutions, best practices indicate that administrators should follow strict hygiene and physical distancing policies, as well as updated more restrictive visitor policies. In the event that individuals living in group facilities are infected, government planners must address how to provide care for those individuals without risking others. Placement of persons with disabilities, caregivers or service providers must not leave persons with disabilities without the supports needed to maintain their health and safety.
In some cases, persons with disabilities are pre-disposed to feelings of social isolation. Policies requiring social distancing as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19, may put people with psychosocial disabilities into greater distress. Greater mental health services may be necessary during the pandemic, including access to telemedicine which may be the most effective way of administering services and practicing social distancing.
Written by Riziki Source