Peron with disability

How Early Covid-19 Responses Ignored Persons With Disabilities

What distance can a person with visual impairment keep as a measure of curbing the spread of  Covid -19 ? What does the washing of hands represent for people with mobility challenges?

These and many more,  were the questions absent from early responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world was shocked from a slumber by the out break of the Coronavirus pandemic that spread across the world like a wild fire.

Experts say Covid-19 is an acute respiratory illness in humans caused by a coronavirus, capable of producing severe symptoms and in some cases death, especially in older people and those with underlying health conditions. It was originally identified in China in 2019 and became pandemic in 2020.

Different countries and governments tried various treatment protocols, but preventive measures are deemed as the likely measure to keep the virus at bay.

However, these measures according to Comfort Mussa, media person and Advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, were ‘disability blind’-do not take into account persons with visual impairment.

“Maintaining social distance does not translate to everybody, how can this be communicated to people who cannot see, what does the distance looks like? What does hand washing mean for people with mobility challenges, for people who need caregivers?,  she quizzed. 

According to her, Covid-19 early national responses from government and civil societies left out persons with disabilities. 

“Covid-19 is still around and would not be over for any body until it is over for everybody. The voices of people with disabilities are still missing where policies are made. Unless you live with people with disabilities, you cannot think about their needs in planning”, Mussa said.

Comfort Muss was part of ‘People of Commonwealth critical conversations on ‘Equity and Justice in Covid-19 Responses’, skillfully moderated by Hilary Ghedemah- a Lawyer with 44 years of experience in academia , legal practice, advocacy, national and international policy.

Experts on the occasion identified the weaknesses in the responses, ranging from the non inclusion of persons with disabilities, to how the pandemic deepen existing poverty, especially through lockdowns and curfews.  

Some measures like lockdowns created even more problems for women such as increase domestic and gender violence with confinements.

Panelists from, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and other countries all agreed that women were experiencing the pandemic differently from men.

Women and persons with disabilities should be given a space at the decision making table for them to contribute to meaningful changes in the Covid-19 response, panelists concluded.