Head of the Psychiatry Unit at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), Dr Ruth Owusu-Antwi has disclosed that much care has not been directed towards persons with disabilities (PWDs) during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking on Joy News’ AM Show with Mamavi Owusu Aboagye, Madam Ruth Antwi stated that according to research, one of the measures in fighting a pandemic is to consider everyone – and that includes PWDs.
She has observed, however, that PWDs seem to have been neglected in this fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As a nation, we have not taken good care of our vulnerable and research has proven that if there is any pandemic or any big trauma for any group of people and we need to get over it or come out of it, one of the ways is to take care of everybody and that means we take care of our vulnerable as well”.
She noted that “simple things like veronica buckets have not been designed to suit the disabled. We thought about everyone else but did not think about them. There were some that were designed with pedals and with various heights.
“What about those who are physically challenged and could not reach that where the tap is? These little-little things have not all been taken into consideration,” the Psychiatrist expressed.
She also highlighted the economic survival of the vulnerable, especially the inability of the blind to participate in online education when schools were shut down by the government.
“Have we thought about their economic survival? Most of these people attend the schools of the blind or special needs schools and may not be able to join in virtual education.
“So what happened? The period where we were all at home and most schools were doing virtual learning. What happened to them? Did we take care of them?
This, she said, brings to the fore that “we have not taken care of the most vulnerable in the society in this pandemic and we need to sit up as a people”.
Dr Owusu-Antwi also noted that specific preventive measures would need to be instituted for PWDs who rely on the assistance of other persons for their daily activities.
“If you have a person who is visually impaired for instance, definitely that person will need assistance moving around from place to place. If you have someone who is physically disabled, they will need assistance.
“How do they factor in social or physical distancing? And so most of the preventive protocols may not be fully applicable when it comes to people with disabilities,” she noted.
Also on the psychological impact of Covid-19 on persons living with disabilities, the psychiatrist noted that the cost of adhering to the safety protocols like PPEs can put a strain on PWDs.
She explained further that this economic strain often results in anxiety and distress among people in this group, resulting in a state of “heightened stress and heightened psychosocial distress”.
“We would have, as a nation, to draw a separate protocol tailored to people living with disability and make sure they are also protected,” she concluded.