Friday, March 31, 2023

States/UTs To Ensure Basic Accessibility Features At COVID-19 Centres For PwDs: Centre

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The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has asked all States and Union Territories to ensure basic physical accessibility features for Divyangjan (PwDs) as per reasonable accommodation in the centres for COVID-19 testing and quarantine facilities as well as for treatment at hospitals and health centres.

Shakuntala D. Gamlin, secretary of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) has written to Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories stating that the current Covid-19 crisis poses great threat to the Divyangjan not just due to their lesser and compromised immunity, ability to perceive or comprehend information but also due to non-availability of accessibility features in the physical environment and eco-system provided at such COVID related facilities.

Letter states that Many Covid-19 centers have been identified as containment units, isolation treatment centres and testing labs for enhancing the holding capacity , in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

Shakuntala D. Gamlin, in the letter has also mentioned that the Department already published certain guidelines for dissemination of information in alternative accessible formats. The guidelines have also been made regarding, priority treatment for the Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and provisions of safety, healthy living and hygiene for PwDs, attendants, care-givers and accessible service providers, such as sign language interpreters. It is necessary to ensure the basic physical accessibility features, as per reasonable accommodation in the centres for COVID-19 testing and quarantine facilities as well as for treatment at hospitals and health centres.

The Department has therefore requested the States to ensure that the people who already have restricted mobility, and have to stay dependant on attendants, do not face any more inconvenience, and the basic features of accessibility are provided by taking immediate action.

The letter has notified the following as the basic features of accessibility: 

  1. All operating and control mechanisms and self-operated devices (sanitizer dispensers, glove cases, soaps, wash basins) are placed within approachable reach of PwDs, especially for wheelchair users.
  2. Graphical and simple, prominent signage as per standard requirements of colour and contrast are put up.
  3. Provision of Ramps with railings.
  4. At least One low height accessible counter at reception, testing areas and pharmacies.
  5. Audio announcements and captioned videos for public announcements of important news to be made.
  6. Ensure accessibility in lifts or assigning liftman in at least one lift for extending help to PwDs.
  7. Reserving areas,rooms or wards for PwDs with accessible toilets.                                                                                         
  8. Provision for vestibular cabins for attendants of COVID-19 patients, especially with intellectual disability and mental illness.
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