KOCHI: Arun, a 30-year-old resident of Chirayinkeezhu, had to be shifted to a quarantine facility when one of his friends who had a ride in his autorickshaw recently tested positive for Covid-19. Being differently-abled, the thought of spending 14 days in a quarantine centre which wasn’t disabled friendly was painful. Since he had only mild symptoms, he opted for home quarantine until he received his test results.
“Since Covid-suspected persons with mild symptoms are housed together, the bathrooms are not disabled friendly and it becomes extremely difficult for such a person to walk across a large room in the absence of a caregiver,” he said.According to Rajeev Palluruthy, secretary of AKWRF, the current crisis poses a greater threat to the differently-abled, not just due to their compromised immunity but also due to the lack of accessibility features at the Covid First-Line Treatment Centers (CFLTCs) across the state.
“Two months ago, a letter was sent to the Chief Minister’s Office, Health Department and all district collectors requesting them to include disabled-friendly features in Covid wards in hospitals and CFLTCs. However, we haven’t received any response, nor have steps been taken to make the centres disabled friendly,” said Rajeev. He highlighted that a few differently-abled people in Kochi, Malappuram and Kozhikode had tested positive for the virus. While some have recovered from the virus, others are still undergoing treatment in various hospitals.
“Many differently-abled people are also under quarantine due to their family members coming in contact with infected persons. However, since the quarantine centres are not disabled friendly, most of them have opted for home quarantine,” he said. “There are over 5,000 differently-abled people in the city who earn a living by making paper pens and umbrellas. Ever since the pandemic began, they are struggling to make ends meet. Although an assistance of Rs 1,000 was provided by the government for three months earlier, it was not sufficient to meet their daily expenses which also include medical costs,” said Sindhu Sudevan, district president, AKWRF. The federation has requested the government to reinstate the assistance and increase the amount.
According to Dr Mohammad Asheel, executive director of Kerala Social Security Mission(KSSM), there is no data on the number of persons with disabilities who have tested positive. “Setting up separate Covid care centres in each district isn’t feasible in the current scenario. However, if the need arises, facilities will be provided through the help of various local self-government departments in the state,” he said.