As the general community continues to cope with the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic across the world, governments have taken measures to combat and prevent the disease.
Persons with Disabilities remain the most vulnerable category that fail to access some facilities in place to prevent the pandemic. A good example is for hand washing and sanitizing kits at public places such as hotels and restaurants that are placed in inaccessible places for persons with physical disabilities or little people.
However, notwithstanding coronavirus outbreak, persons with disabilities are currently facilitated to access some services in public places like special ways for wheel chairs, special toilets in hotels, etc.
Since COVID-19 started to hit Rwanda in M id-March 2020, the measures that were set to prevent the pandemic exclude persons with disabilities.
The Express News collected various testimonies and views on how the issue can be solved as the diseases keeps on spreading among Rwandans.
Pierre Nyankiko from Kimironko sector, Gasabo District has blind disability. He said that persons with vision impairments and little people struggle to access hand washing facilities at the bus stops, markets, and other public places.
He also said that persons with blind disability are exposed to the coronavirus infection as they can also spread it.
“We have many risks as persons with blind disability, myself, I go touching on all walls to do anything, we spread and get contaminated easily, everywhere I go I touch on the walls because I don’t see, I touch everything, and I touch the person who conduct me. This makes easy to get contaminated and contaminate others. I think that the white cans of blind persons can be cleaned but the sanitizers are expensive.” He said.
Nyankiko suggests that the government should include persons with blind disabilities among the 20 percent of the categories who will be prioritized for the first session of Covid-19 vaccine.
About the hand washing facilities, Nyankiko said that these can be constructed with inclusiveness that not leaves behind little people and blind persons.
“It requires to push us to the water taps and soaps when we reach the markets and bus stations’ entrances. This can be a way of getting contaminated or contaminate others. We request the government to renovate the hand washing facilities by making them more inclusive. There is a need for special hand washing facilities for little people because the current ones were constructed quickly as the pandemic was still fresh,” Nyankiko added.
Honorine Tuyishimire, Executive Director of Rwanda Union of Little People (RULP) said that there are many hand washing facilities at the bus stations and markets but are not accessible to little people.
She recommends the government to think of everybody and everyone’s interests when setting up the public services.
“Every Rwandan including Persons with disabilities need to wash hands to enter public places or in a bus because they cannot stop their journey, before implementing everything, the government needs to think on everyone’s interests. The hand washing facilities must be inclusive as children need them too.” She said.
She added that there is a need for special ways for persons with blind disabilities within pedestrian ways on roads to allow persons with blind disabilities pass alone without the guide so as to avoid the spread of covid-19.
“We do not know the extent to which the guide is respecting prevention measures, so, persons with blind disabilities need to have special ways within pedestrian ways.” Tuyishimire added.
Romalis Niyomugabo, the president of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) said that there was advocacy conducted so far by the council to implement inclusive measures in combating and preventing coronavirus.
“We did advocacy and talked to entities in charge of Covid-19 prevention to make inclusive hand washing facilities, for example, at some bars and restaurants, we advised them to make small hand washing facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities and this was implemented at some places, for persons with blind disabilities, we told volunteers who serve at public places to facilitate persons with blind disabilities especially those who do not have guides.” Niyomugabo said.
He added that guides of persons with blind disability must be trusted for health safety to avoid contaminating who they are guiding.
“For a guide, there must be a hope that he/she is not infected, we may have a worry for one who needs a guide from elsewhere outside his/her community.” He said.
He mentioned other facilities on roads where a special way for persons with disability was established especially for the new roads and others under construction.
“We request the general community to help persons with disabilities prevent Covid-19 and prevent members of their families.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD2020) which was celebrated this year whose theme “Lets promote Health Services and Fight Against pandemics for Persons with Disabilities” calls the community to cater for PWDs.
Julien MahoroNiyingabira, the spokesperson of the Ministry of health (MoH) told this paper that youth volunteers at the public places caters for persons with disabilities.
“I cannot say today that there is a person with blind disability who failed to wash hands as they also wash hands in their homes and many of them have people who help them, there are youth volunteers who can help them at public places, all we do as the ministry of health is to ensure that all who need help are served. We ensure this is done through policy and strategic levels and the associations that host PWDs.
The Express News