Following complaints from rights activists and organisations, the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities has requested the Union health ministry to issue directions to states to give priority to people with disabilities in treatment and vaccination for Covid-19.
In a communication to the health ministry dated April 29, the department wrote, “Ministry of health and family welfare is requested to issue appropriate instructions to state/UTs health authorities and healthcare institutions under its control to ensure that special provisions be made in Covid-19 testing, vaccination and treatment centres for priority in attending to and treatment of PwDs (people with disability).”
This comes after the National Federation of the Blind complained to the department that people with visual impairment had to stand in long queues to get tested, vaccinated and get treatment for Covid-19.
SK Rungta, general secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, said, “Due to the increase in Covid-19 cases in the country, the general public is facing a lot of problems in getting tests done. But the problem for people with disabilities has increased manifold. A lot of labs are not doing home collection and then there are long queues for testing. It is impossible for a blind person to go and stand in a queue. Similarly, for vaccination and treatment, priority should be given to people with disabilities. We have received several complaints from across the country about the problems disabled face for getting their Covid-19 tests done or vaccination.”
An official from the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities said that they have received similar representations from different organisations and activists from across the country.
Rungta added, “We have written to both the health ministry and the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities. We hope necessary directions are issued to state governments and union territories.”
Disability rights activist Abha Khetrapal, who recently tested positive for Covid-19, said it is very difficult for a person with a disability to manage if he or she tests positive. “I had to wait for 24 hours before I could arrange for my sample to be collected from home. In the present situation, the government should provide special helpline numbers for disabled people. Also, as vaccination for the 18-44 age group will start soon, there should be a provision to get vaccinated at home for people with disabilities.”