The education of the citizenry on COVID-19 measures is not inclusive of the needs of persons with IDDs.
Accra (16 June 2020) – As the Government of Ghana continues the good efforts to communicate to the citizenry the important measures that they must adopt to help curb the spread of COVID-19 infections. Inclusion Ghana hereby expresses its disappointment that the needs of Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (PWIDDs) have not been incorporated in the various public education strategies. PWIDDs (including persons living with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and others) are amongst the most-at-risk of death from COVID-19 infection because many of them have multiple underlying health conditions, and so must be targeted by any measures to help protect people from COVID-19 infection.
Unfortunately, PWIDDs generally have challenges understanding these measures without further breakdown and may have difficulty practicing these measures without assistance. For instance, some persons with autism are very sensitive to touch, and so may react negatively to being asked to put on nose and mouth masks. They are generally sensitive to changes in their normal routines, so asking them to stay at home instead of being allowed to visit some places at specific times may trigger serious behavioural challenges. Persons with down syndrome are generally socially active, keen to hug other persons, engage them in conversation, visit places of entertainment, etc. Practicing social distancing will therefore be a big issue for many of them. Persons with mild-moderate severity of cerebral palsy, who will usually go out on their own, may have difficulty washing their hands with soap and water, robbing their hands with hand sanitizer or wear nose and mouth mask.
In effect, the education of the citizenry on COVID-19 prevention measures must also highlight the existence of a proportion of our population who may have challenges conforming to these measures, and in such cases what can the other citizens who experience unwelcome contact with PWIDDs react in ways that will not result in the abuse of PWIDDs.
In addition, many PWIDDs are over 90% dependent on support from their parents, caregivers or generally support persons. Support persons are well trusted by PWIDDs, and their presence in any crisis situations involving PWIDDs are invaluable. As a result, COVID-19 measures must take into consideration the importance of ensuring that support persons of PWIDDs take maximum precaution to avoid being infected, otherwise PWIDDs they support becomes extremely susceptible to loss of life. On the other hand, PWIDDs who become infected with COVID-19 may have serious difficulty being quarantined or hospitalized without the presence of their support persons. Health workers may be overwhelmed from negative reactions that may be received from attempts to carry out any tests or treatments for PWIDDs in the absence of their support persons. Again, there is the need to create awareness amongst frontline health workers about these challenging scenarios and possible remedies. There is the need for the government to engage support persons and organizations of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Ghana to deliberate on strategies that will ensure that PWIDDs are not kept in their usual lot of “ the excluded” as we seek to put in place necessary measures to prevent, protect or avoid loss of lives resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For further discussions, contact Inclusion Ghana on Email: email@example.com or call 0302 243 291/020 815 1523; Website: www.inclusion-ghana.org