COVID-19: Guidance for People with Disabilities and families
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly spreading and has infected tens of thousands of people around the world. While anyone and everyone can be infected, it has been proven that certain groups of people face increased risk of getting infected and developing more severe cases of COVID-19, including people with disabilities.
Many disabled people do have specific disabilities or underlying health conditions that make the virus more dangerous for them. People with disabilities also face challenges in avoiding infection since it is not possible for many to follow containment measures being advised.
Given below are some advisories from various health experts & organisations:
1. According to The Spinal Foundation India COVID-19 advisory, Rehabilitation Experts have advised people with Spinal Cord Injuries on the following:
- Tetraplegics (quadriplegics) must take extra care as COVID-19 affects the respiratory system. For a cervical-injured person, the spinal cord injury would have already impacted the respiratory system, and so they need to be more careful
- Tetraplegics, especially, should stay clear of crowded places, even if they are in an area where there is no known instance so far of a COVID-19 affected person.
- Tetraplegics may be better off avoiding outstation travel for now (say the next 30 days and evaluate the situation).
- Paraplegics should also be careful about stepping out if they are in areas where there are recorded instances of COVID-19
2. Those at greater risk also include people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or other immunocompromising disorders, especially those whose treatment includes immunosuppression drugs. They are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with others as far as possible.
3. While the ‘best practice’ advice being given is to minimise social/physical contact, this is not always an option for many people who live with disabilities. Washing hands as many times as possible is also another advice. But this too cannot be done independently by many disabled people who rely on personal assistance for survival. You cannot avoid physical contact when you’re reliant on extra hands to help with your daily needs.
- Family members/caregivers are advised to wear a mask and to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer each time before they give the required assistance
- Self-Care: It is likely that you are the person with whom the person with disability has the most daily contact, so the best protection is for you not to acquire the virus. So you should follow the general rules of hand washing, sanitizing and social distancing as stringently as possible.
- Family members/caregivers who have been in contact with anyone who has shown possible symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, even if they themselves are not symptomatic, are advised to keep their distance from the person with disability they care for.
- Manage Underlying Chronic Conditions: If the person with disability has one or more chronic conditions, these are already taxing the immune system. So adhere to management regimens to prevent the condition from worsening and further taxing the person’s system.
- Monitoring: Watch yourself and the person with disability for symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, etc)
- If a person with disability becomes sick, seek medical advice immediately as they are at greater risk
5. Manual wheelchair users, especially those at higher risk of severe symptoms due to secondary complications, are advised to regularly disinfect their push rims and tyres. Bleach wipes are easy and effective.
6. Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. This is especially important in households with disabled family members
If you are at higher risk, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you:
- Stay at home as far as possible to reduce your risk of being exposed
- Make sure you have access to several weeks of required medications in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time
The COVID-19 outbreak is a rapidly evolving medical situation. As more data becomes available to health researchers, guidelines and best practices may change. Don’t trust information on social media unless you can verify it through multiple, trusted sources.
The above information has been collected from credible sources and sites for the benefit of the disability community and families in Nagaland. It will be updated as and when new information is available.
State Govt asked to establish clear protocols for disability inclusion in the COVID-19 response
Nagas with disabilities are a vulnerable population in the COVID-19 pandemic because they are at elevated risk of severe consequences due to underlying health conditions. Given this situation, the office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities has written to the Chief Secretary asking the State Govt to take urgent action on the following:
- To establish clear protocols for public health emergencies and issue clear directives to ensure that access to healthcare, including life-saving measures, do not discriminate against people with disabilities.
- Immediate directives to be given to ensure that all hospitals providing services related to COVID-19 are made completely accessible, including accessible toilets.
- In many cases of persons with disabilities who need hospital care, family members/caregivers will be required to be present. Protocols must be put in place to ensure that this is made possible and also to make sure that Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) are provided at no cost.
- It is also crucial that information about how to prevent and contain the coronavirus is made accessible to everyone. Public advice campaigns and information from the government and health authorities must be made available to the public in sign language and accessible means, modes and formats, including accessible digital technology, captioning, relay services, text messages, easy-to-read and plain language.
State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities