working TOGETHER for the specially-abled during a special time

working together cooperation

COVID 19 is a special, strange and unique experience confronting us. It is national and international in character. Unlike disasters such as cyclones and earthquakes, this virus attack is not only a prolonged one, but it also demands social distancing, thus restricting channels of help, support and mobility. There is no vaccine or treatment, thereby leaving people to take utmost precautions at all levels – individual, family and societal. 

The first thing our Department (Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) did as the lockdown was announced, was to issue comprehensive disability-inclusive guidelines to the State Governments. The intent is to focus on the specific needs of Divyangjans, as they are not to be neglected; rather, they need greater attention due to their helplessness. It is their minimum right to get food, water, and medicine. The States have been told to designate a State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as State Nodal Officer, and District Social Welfare Officer as District Nodal Officer. They were asked to involve several NGOs to support Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). Additionally, PwDs themselves would be allowed to take part in the whole process of assistance. 

The Department then set up a WhatsApp group with all State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities along with a person with disability who has the experience of knowing and closely working with PwDs. This group was a platform to not only inform the situation to all, but also to exchange best practices, while clearing any doubts or difficulties. 

The first problem that hit us due to the lockdown, was the restriction of movement of maids and caregivers on whom Divyangjan are wholly dependent upon. The matter was taken up immediately with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure the issuance of passes to enable the smooth movement of maids and caregivers, and also to the PwDs themselves who needed to visit a centre for any urgent medical help. The district authorities sprung into action immediately and ensured that online application for passes was introduced. Whenever there were instances when a PwD was unable to apply online, the staff of the State Commissioner office assisted the PwD. For instance, there were phone calls seeking supply of ration and other materials, which when conveyed to the local authorities, were promptly acted upon. 

The Central Government also assisted by granting an amount of Rs. 1,000 as ex-gratia to Persons with serious disabilities. There were requests that employees with disabilities be exempted from attending office during the lockdown as they were more vulnerable to infection. The Department of Personnel and Training agreed to our proposal and issued a circular accordingly. In the beginning itself, we wrote to the State Governments, Home Ministry, Health Ministry, and Information and Broadcasting Ministry to provide all information on COVID 19 in accessible formats. They were told to ensure that testing labs, quarantine homes, and treating hospitals are accessible to the PwDs. 

The State Government responded well to the demanding situation. They also helped a number of PwDs who were stranded, to reach their homes. NGOs are working with full commitment in various States. Social media has been of great help in disseminating information to one and all, be it PwDs, parents, caregivers, or even professionals. 

The fight is not yet over. The challenge is growing, as the number of cases are only increasing day by day. We have been impressing upon PwDs and their families to take all necessary precautions, ensure hygiene and good mental health. If the government and the public can work together, COVID 19 can be managed well.

Wishing all safety and good health!

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USO has had the honour of working closely with Mr. K. V. S. Rao, for the Specially-Abled Children’s National Science Painting Competition in November 2019 (in collaboration with CSIR-NISCAIR; and support from UNESCO). USO is also organising the Specially-Abled Children’s National Poster Making Competition, in collaboration with CSIR-NISCAIR, and in association with Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan).

video of the competition

Kick-off event of the Specially-Abled Children’s National Science Painting Competition

Judging the entries received

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Nikhil Bimbrahw

    The Divyangajan department deserves our best wishes for these great initiatives!

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