Care for persons with disabilities during lockdown

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, has urged citizens to play their part in ensuring heightened care and access to information for people with disabilities during the 21-day COVID-19 enforced lockdown. 

In a statement issued on Monday, the department said people with disabilities are among those who were mostly vulnerable to the negative impact of Coronavirus.

Their exposure as sharpened during the period of State of Disaster and the national lockdown, the department said.

“People with disabilities, the elderly, those in frail care, and children with disabilities continue to remain at the periphery of society and are isolated from activities during the best of times. During the national lockdown, these groups face increased isolation through their physical conditions, as well as through a lack of accessible information,” the statement read.

To ensure that people with disabilities and their families continue to receive services during the lockdown, residential facilities, including centre and community-based facilities will remain operational as they form part of essential services.

The department said society should during this period ensure that information on COVID-19 is made available in accessible formats, on appropriate platforms, including accessible digital technology to cater for the needs of people with disabilities.

This includes the interpretation of speeches and addresses into South African Sign Language.

The department called on all media organisations to ensure that televised press briefings have sign language interpreters, that transcripts are made available, and closed captions are utilised for persons with hearing difficulties.

To ensure that persons with disabilities receive accessible information during this critical time, the Gender Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) (0800 428 428) has a Skype Line (add “Helpme GBV” to your Skype contacts) and “Please Call Me” facility: *120*7867#. An SMS based line is also available on 31531.

The department urged all sectors of society to work together to combat stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices relating to persons with disabilities in all spheres of life. 

“We can support persons with disabilities by promoting, protecting and advancing the rights of people with disabilities in our areas of influence,” said the department.

During the lockdown, caregivers will continue assisting people with disabilities, as they have been deemed essential service workers.  They will assist those living disabilities continue to access services and goods, including access to social grants and to perform other essential tasks.

“People with special needs will continue to be allowed to leave their homes for essential tasks.  The standard practices on people with visual impairments, who have guide dogs, will apply,” the department said. 

During this period, relevant government departments will continue to support people with disabilities in obtaining food and other essential services.

“We encourage essential service providers to support the elderly and people with disabilities by establishing exclusive hours to buy necessities,” the department said. – SAnews.gov.za

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