WBU Call to Action -19 Actions for an inclusive Covid-19 response
This Call for Action is produced by World Blind Union, the global organisation representing the estimated 253 million persons who are blind and partially sighted worldwide. The actions are in line with recommendations by other Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (DPOs) and reflect the urgent needs of WBUs constituency following the spread of COVID-19 and responses to the pandemic. WBU recognises the diversity of needs among persons with disabilities, especially in times of crises, and urge governments and relevant stakeholders to adopt inclusive approaches to “leave no-one behind”.
Participation and inclusion
1. We call on all governments to establish Covid-19 Task Forces, inclusive of all persons with disabilities including persons who are blind and partially sighted and their representative organizations to monitor the evolving needs of persons with disabilities and advise on the implementation of inclusive response plans, programs and strategies.
2. We call on all governments, local and national agencies to provide information related to Covid-19 in accessible formats including large print, tactile format, accessible multimedia as well as written, audio, plain-language. In addition, we urge all broadcasting and mass media networks to ensure that information and announcements on Covid-19 are accessible to all persons with disabilities including persons who are blind and partially sighted.
3. We request governments, local and national authorities to provide toll free phone numbers where persons who are blind and partially sighted can access relevant public information and appropriate emergency support.
4. Recognising women and girls with disabilities are the most at risk of exploitation, violence and abuse due to the isolation and social distancing requirements, we call on local and national law enforcement agencies, human rights organizations and civil societies working in the area of gender- based violence to put in place appropriate measures to prevent all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse towards women and girls with disabilities including appropriate forms of gender- and age-sensitive assistance and support for women and girls who are blind and partially sighted such as access to free hotline phone numbers and services.
5. We call on all governments, local and national authorities to ensure that appropriate and effective mechanisms are available to identify and intervene to prevent instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against women and girls with disabilities including women and girls who are blind and partially sighted.
6. We request governments to provide reasonable accommodation and support measures for blind and partially sighted women and girls who are dealing with daily home chores including childcare, cooking, house keeping etc.
7. We call on all local and national governments to establish inclusive emergency response programs that address the needs of all persons with disabilities, including the specific needs of persons who are blind and partially sighted living in both urban and rural areas, indigenous communities, and those who are homeless.
8. We urge governments and emergency relief agencies to ensure that emergency response packages including financial aid programs, registration processes and application forms for emergency relief support are fully accessible to persons who are blind and partially sighted.
9. We urge governments, local and national authorities to provide additional financial support to caregivers and family members who are assisting persons who are blind and partially sighted.
10. We call on national and local governments to exempt persons who are blind and partially sighted and their close family members from personal income taxes to be able to afford basic needs.
11. We call on governments to consider increasing disability financial benefits or any other form of disability pension relief during this period of the Covid-19 pandemic.
12. We call on governments and relief agencies to ensure that persons with disabilities including persons who are blind and partially sighted will be given high priority in the event of evacuation and distribution of emergency relief supplies and services.
13. We urge all retail chains and consumer goods and suppliers, supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential businesses to ensure that online shopping services are fully accessible to blind and partially sighted persons. We also recommend that persons with disabilities must be given priority in fast shopping deliveries. In cases where online shopping is not available, we strongly recommend that businesses to dedicate special hotlines where persons with disabilities can call and order their products.
14. We urge businesses to ensure special hours are provided for blind and partially sighted shoppers and persons with disabilities.
15. For in person shopping places, we recommend that the persons assisting blind customers to respect social distance and provide verbal instructions on how to navigate the shopping facilities.
16. We call on all education ministries to put in place accessible online schooling systems and ensure that parents or children guardians who are blind or partially sighted can fully access education materials so they can provide adequate support to their children.
17. We call on governments and health authorities to provide accessible health equipment and services to all persons with disabilities including persons who are blind and partially sighted.
18. We recommend that governments, private sector and non for profit organizations put in place reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities working from their homes.
19. We request local and national governments to provide extra incentives to employers to sustain employees especially persons with disabilities who are at a higher risk of losing jobs.
This post was written by Terry Mutuku