The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Globally, an estimated one billion people – roughly 15 per cent of the world’s population – live with some form of disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the fight to halt further spread of the novel coronavirus disease.
The world faces a situation where discrimination against people of determination could increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, as pointed out by Lindsay Lee, a WHO Technical Officer who uses a wheelchair and works on issues related to people with disabilities.
Governments and communities need to remain extra vigilant on this aspect.
Health care access is already difficult for some people with disabilities in many parts of the world, even in high-income locations. Other barriers include physical obstacles, discriminatory laws and existing stigma. Lee is right when she says that these things, if governments and communities are not careful, can be exacerbated in crisis situations. If the whole community is willing to do its part, these sorts of risks can certainly be mitigated.
People of determination experience increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Some may have difficulties in implementing basic hygiene measures to keep the virus at bay. Others may not be able to practice social distancing because they require care or other support.
Additionally, some persons with disabilities who contract the virus could develop a severe case of the disease as it can worsen existing health conditions, particularly related to immune response or respiratory function.
The UAE, on its part, has been keen to provide comprehensive care, quality health, and educational services for the people of determination.
The UAE is one of the world’s first countries to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, reflecting the directives of the wise leadership, which has spared no effort locally and globally in serving this category to ensure their integration into society and to make use of their capabilities in the sustainable development process.
Hessa Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, last week announced the launch of the “Remote Rehabilitation” system that targets people of determination, including students, who are registered at the ministry’s centres, “Mashagel” vocational, rehabilitation and employment centres and early intervention units and centres all over the UAE. Beginning March 22, 2020, the ministry will soon begin the smart application, “My Family”, which allows families to participate in “remote intervention” to enhance child support efforts and in line with the precautionary measures taken by all the UAE authorities to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
As Buhumaid stated, “The ministry is very keen to maintain the health of people of determination, including students and staff at the centres and early intervention units, and prevent them from being exposed to infectious diseases.”
The “remote rehabilitation” also includes the enrolment of female students in “Mashagel” workshops, to be provided with simple equipment necessary, “Qelada”, “determination bracelets” and other accessories created by students with intellectual disabilities who will be able to manufacture their products from home.
At a time when the deadly virus has launched a war on humanity, it is essential for the world community to provide right guidance and support to people of determination. No one should be left behind when it comes to taking precautions against COVID-19.
There is also a dire need, as UN experts point out, for authorities to provide public health information that is accessible to people of determination, such as using sign language, captioning, text messages and relay services.
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