NGOs and human rights representatives as well as other experts have demanded to take into account the rights of persons with disabilities in terms of access to healthcare facilities and benefit from other services in addition to obtain information related to the novel Coronavirus.
They expressed this need during a PNGO zoom workshop entitled, “The Risks brought by the Coronavirus Pandemic to Persons with Disabilities in the Gaza Strip”, which was based on a paper prepared by Dr. Bassam Abu Hashish, within the project of Palestinian civil society organizations’ plans to face future challenges. The project is implemented in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).
The workshop aims at integrating persons with disabilities in the national plans and programs related to confronting the Coronavirus and overcoming the effects of its spreading in addition to its repercussions in Palestine.
In his paper, Abu Hashish discussed the conditions of persons with disabilities before and during the pandemic in light of the deteriorating economic and social conditions, as well as a set of measures and steps to be taken in their favor.
“We need to ensure that persons with disabilities and their families have access to important information, including communication strategies, sign language translation of televised statements, and communication via telephone services with text options with a clear language to increase understanding and awareness for deaf people, or people with hearing aid,” Abu Hashish stressed.
Moreover, he pointed out the importance of using clearly-spoken informative educational materials that include more detailed information for people with visual disabilities, so that they can imagine and understand them. In the case of online educational awareness messages, texts should be used instead of images to enable using reading programs to access and spread the contents.
“It must be confirmed that the quarantine places are suitable for persons with disabilities as well as appropriate to meet PwD comfort standards. This includes sign language interpreters for people with hearing impairments, and for everyone who does not understand or speak adequately,” Abu Hashish said.
“All fundamental guarantees must be made, including, the right to know the reason for being kept in the quarantine, in addition to the right to obtain independent legal advice and to be seen by a doctor of their choice as well as putting in place appropriate measures to prevent violations related to abuse or discriminatory practices, which may lead to stigmatization or marginalization of certain groups of people,” he added.
Similarly, Abu Hashish pointed out the need to use sign language interpreters to communicate with people with hearing disabilities when needed, as well as placing a number of sign language signboards inside the place. Using people to guide the visually impaired, is also crucial to inform them of the details of the quarantine places and the importance of using protective gloves.
He also expressed the importance of providing health, educational and social services, in light of the social distancing policy, as a result of the cessation of the work of these institutions, including the PwD rehabilitation institutions.
Given that the enforced precautionary measures have affected many services programs, persons with disabilities are now in urgent need of the aid of new programs to bridge the gap made by the absence of other services.
Integrating service providers for persons with disabilities in the emergency programs set by the government, Abu Hashish considered, is important to ensure the supply of health protection equipment and enable institutions working with PwD to join local and regional committees in charge of implementing various measures related to the spread the Coronavirus pandemic to limit its economic and social consequences.
Furthermore, he stressed the need to provide financial aid to persons with disabilities to cover the additional expenses resulting from the current situation and allocate additional financial aid to every family that has a person with a disability as one of its members.
In the same context, Abu Hashish urged to take all measures and procedures to make distance education appropriate in a way that includes all persons with disabilities by providing online lessons and classes via TV channels used for such purposes and making the various digital platforms easy to access.
“It is key to give special priority to persons with disabilities and their families in the most vulnerable places, depending on the criterion of disability in measuring the compensation provided to families, and studying the possibility of providing additional compensations for some persons with disabilities who use drugs for their survival while ensuring the sustainability of medical services for others,” he stated while stressing the importance of enabling disabled male and female employees to benefit from all work privileges related, especially working remotely.
Amjad Al-Shawa, PNGO director, previously opened the session by mentioning the importance of the paper prepared by Abu Hashish, which comes within the vision of the PNGO Network and its interest in examining the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on various sectors.
The paper, Al-Shawa said, includes important information and facts on ways to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on persons with disabilities, especially as the PNGO, civil society organizations, persons with disabilities, and the entire Palestinian society are undergoing a new unprecedented experience.
Al-Shawa affirmed that persons with disabilities are the most affected group by the economic, social, and humanitarian consequences of the Coronavirus crisis, calling on all official and civil parties to develop an intervention plan to protect and empower their rights.
In turn, Dr. Usama Antar, director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) office in the Gaza Strip, praised the partnership with PNGO and the coordination of the project activities with the conditions and crises experienced by the Palestinians as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
Also, Dr. Antar pointed out the importance of the papers prepared by PNGO through researchers and specialists which sheds light on ways to address the consequences of the pandemic and corner its negative effects.