SURVIVING COVID 19 PANDEMIC AS PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITIES.

As Governments all over the world respond to the advent of the Corona virus pandemic, it is critical now more than ever for them to make sure that measures taken to prevent and protect from the virus is inclusive of Persons living with disabilities. Their rights should be protected in every way possible because this virus transcends boundaries, age, gender or ability.

WHAT IS CORONA VIRUS ?
Corona virus according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is a large group of viruses that consist of a core of genetic material surrounded by an envelope with protein spikes that gives it an appearance of a crown. The 2019 novel Corona virus was first discovered in a seafood and live animals market in Wuhan, China.

SYMPTOMS
They increase as researchers try to understand how the virus present. Currently according to WHO they include;
Fever, dry cough, tiredness, aches and pains, nasal congestion, head ache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, loss of taste or smell or rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes, diarrhea, and shortness of breath. But in more sever cases pneumonia or breathing difficulties and even death.

WHO IS AT RISK?
Everyone is at risk especially;

  • Persons living with disabilities with chronic health challenges are at greater risk of contacting corona virus because of physical barriers to access hygiene facilities like hand washing stations, difficulty in enacting social distancing rule and the need to touch surfaces for support.
  • Persons with chronic health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases etc
  • Care givers, friends, family members and health workers who are taking care of infected persons.
  • Persons who have had contact with someone having travelled from those places with accelerated rate of infections.
  • People who have close contact with animals.

HOW IT IS TRANSMITTED (SPREAD)
It is transmitted;

  • By direct contact with the respiratory droplets from cough and sneezing of an infected person.
  • By touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the face, eyes, nose or mouth.

TESTING FOR THE VIRUS
The infection is tested with a Pulmonary chain reactor (PCR) test kit. This test identify the virus base on it’s genetic finger print.

TREATMENT
There is currently no specific treatment for this virus. However vaccines are in development.

KNOW THE BEST PRACTICES FOR PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITIES (PWDS).

Get a seat and talk to Persons living with disability directly at eye level and not to their caregiver. Don’t speak about them or COVID 19 related issues as it concerns them as if they are invincible, can’t understand what is being said or can’t speak for themselves.

Use plain language to explain to the individual and the caregiver about COVID 19 and the various precautionary measures and emergency response protocols to take in preventing the disease.

Always keep in mind that the individual understands you. But make sure you leave time for questions and response because some of us are highly intelligent professionals.

HOW YOU CAN ASSIST.

Be aware of the Person’s reach. Appropriate hand washing stations and sanitizers or disinfecting wipes should be placed with persons using wheelchair and the virtually impaired in mind. Provide ramps and rooms with enough access to a wheelchair and make sure the floor is not wet to prevent accidental slip and fall of persons with limited mobility or the visually impaired.

Stairwells, door knobs and surfaces should be frequently disinfected as such surfaces are used as support while moving around. Also the virtually impaired use auditory cues to go around. Such auditory clues should be clear and specific. Where the need arise, read posters and instructions concerning the pandemic to the visually impaired.

Digital displays, pictograms, posters, and signages encouraging good hand washing and respiratory hygiene practices should be placed at strategic areas for those with limited use of verbal communication, the Deaf or hard of hearing. And to better communicate with them, follow their cue to find out if they’ll prefer sign language, gesturing, or writing.

In taking care of a quadriplegic or bed ridden, place disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer beside the bed or use a clean, wet and disinfected towel to help in cleaning the face and hands as often as possible. Also ensure increase flow of air or ventilation in the room they are kept in.

Assistive devices such as wheelchair handles, crutches, white cane, scooter etc in most cases are used without cleaning them. These devices should be cleaned with disinfectant regularly. This is because in some cases, caregivers also handle them and so can be contaminated from mere touch.

Persons living with disability who are health care professionals should maintain high Personal, Protective Equipments (PPE) standards to ensure not only their safety but that of their families as well. This is because there is a spike in health workers contacting this disease.

When going out for any reason, especially when using public transportation, observe the rule on face mask, social distancing and use hand gloves to reduce spread through contact.

With the lockdown going on in various states of the Federation, we should be given primary consideration when palliatives are being distributed because our source of income had been grossly affected and in some cases hampered by it. Dedicated shopping hours for PWDs should also be considered.

We can come together as PWDs and form advocacy groups to carryout more sensitization about the pandemic to others living with disabilities. This is because sometimes it’s easier and better to talk to someone who understands what it is like to want to lead a normal existence with disabilities.

Remember, most Persons living with disabilities need the assistance of caregivers, friends and relatives with activities of daily living. We should therefore be considered as exceptions to the rule on social distancing as our caregivers exhibit high safety standards.

Corona virus is a novel disease, and because we are all navigating on uncharted territory, let us take personal responsibility for our lives. All Heath and hygiene, safety protocols should continue to apply. Unnecessary travels and visitations should be avoided because what is know about this virus, its prevention and cure is still in the works.The relaxation of the lockdown does not mean that Corona virus is less potent. Let’s continue to observe the necessary health and safety rules and keep going strong. This too will pass.

Ininuma, B. Minabo Esq. is a member of Association of Lawyers with disabilities in Nigeria ( ALDIN) with support by Disability Rights Foundation ( DRF).

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