Guwahati: In an effort to assist Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) during the COVID-19 crisis, city-based NGO Shishu Sarothi has initiated a helpline service to address concerns of PwDs and their families from across Assam and facilitate information sharing on available medical help, medicines, home-based care and necessary assistance for relief measures and counselling.

Operational from 8 am to 8 pm and the Helpline numbers are +91 60006 25669, +91 88228 67130 and +91 70862 68549.

A statement issued by Shishu Sarothi said, “The pandemic has disproportionately impacted people with disabilities. Even while the whole nation is reeling under the second wave of the pandemic, it has wreaked havoc for particularly vulnerable segments of the population with a variety of conditions and impairments. Children and people with disabilities face many barriers in this pandemic.”

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Many of the challenges they face are inherently because of their disabilities. For example, they are at a potentially higher risk of contracting the virus due to underlying conditions and have difficulty in following preventative protocols, and experience disruptions to health and rehabilitation services they normally rely on.

Acquiring information from COVID-19 guidelines, advisories, protocols and SOPs is another challenge. Blind persons are more reliant on their sense of touch as a substitute for impaired vision and people with other disabilities may also be incapable of maintaining social distancing due to their need for regular care and support. Wearing a mask is uncomfortable at best, these unpleasant sensory experiences can be intensely magnified in children and people with autism. Thus, wearing masks may not be an option for those with autism or even cerebral palsy or any developmental disability as they are worst affected, and mortality is also reported to be higher among people with disabilities.

Despite government initiatives of vaccination, many people with disabilities are finding it hard to get vaccinated equitably due to difficulties in accessing and registering themselves on the government portal and mobility problems in going to vaccination centres.

There is urgent need to scale up efforts all round to ensure access to assistance and information for persons with disabilities, added the release.

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