The Disability Community in Anambra State has raised the alarm that the coronavirus pandemic may hit them very hard unless necessary steps are taken to support and assist the vulnerable group stay safe.
The call came from members of the community as the threat of COVID-19 intensifies across the country.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended refrain from physical contact and social distancing, as measures to prevent contracting the highly contagious disease.
But according to the Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano on Disability Matters, Barr Chuks Ezewuzie ‘do not touch’ is not for the blind and the visually impaired, who must necessarily touch and be touched.
This he noted, is because the hand of the blind is their eye and they feel their way and touch the things around.
“WHO also recommends ‘social distancing’ but this is not for persons on a wheelchair. In the absence of motorized wheelchair, the physically challenged on the wheelchair must depend on the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) to push the wheelchair. The blind and persons on Crutches will of necessity, hold unto staircase handrails for support or guide.
“For the deaf persons, they do not hear the announcements, radio Jingles or community alerts,” he observed.
Barr Ezewuzie advocated that the PCAs to the Blind must, in addition to the frequent washing of hands and wearing of gloves and masks, allow the blind to hold unto their shoulders and avoid holding hands or dragging with a stick.
He continued, “The conventional practice of holding unto elbow is now discouraged because ‘WHO’ advised people to cough on their elbow. The further challenge for the blind is the fact that the blind read Braille with their fingers and wearing glove will constitute a barrier to this process. Volunteer readers are therefore needed to bridge this gap. Volunteer readers must maintain 6ft space between the reader and the blind.
“The blind are also encouraged to utilize the computer-based speech synthesizer for their reading if and when available.
He advised deaf persons and sign language interpreters to limit the frequency with which they touch their faces when communicating or interpreting messages to the Deaf.
A sign Language specialist, Collins Joseph, revealed that the various advisories on COVID-19 have been transmitted into sign languages and urged the public to avail their physically-challenged relatives the messages to enable them to stay safe.