The road ahead: What can we do to support disability inclusion in the COVID-19 response?

This is the last blog in our series of learning from the Twitter Chat we hosted on 6 April. There is a lot already happening to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities within the COVID-19 response. However, more could still be done. Some evidence gaps also remain. In this blog we try to summarise some key actions that we can all take to promote inclusion. We also highlight where to go for further information.

What can we do to promote inclusive communication?

It is important that information regarding; infection mitigation, public restrictions, available services, myth busting, and information for carers is made available in accessible formats. Information for health workers when treating people with disabilities is also essential to ensure respectful care that is aligned with human rights norms.

We must learn to communicate in multiple ways through to reach all those in need. Within the Twitter Chat, participants highlighted many resources and approaches to accessible communication. This Repository of resources collated by core group and the International Disability and Development Consortium provides a comprehensive list of materials in plain language, easy read and various sign languages.

Additional, communication resources include: easy to read tools for people with intellectual disabilities produced by @InclusionIntl and its members; and messages and information briefings available in sign language for use in different contexts, specifically, Bangladesh, Kenya, India, USA, and Nigeria.

However, participants highlighted that more can still be done to ensure inclusive communication that should respond to the resource environments in which many people in the global south live.

Adaptive communication should focus across multiple areas including: high contrast visuals; text-based captioning on all TV broadcasts; and information in braille for the blind. It should also consider how messaging itself needs to be adapted based on the needs of people with disabilities and what is achievable based on individual needs.

How to support health workers and carers of people with disabilities?

Information, protective equipment, testing and guidance for carers is needed for disabled people who rely on personal care and support and as a result they cannot self-isolate.

Some masks that cover the faces of health workers can make it challenging for deaf people or those who rely on lipreading for communication. This innovation from a college student is supporting to overcome this challenge.

There were also calls to support and improve tele-rehabilitation, to continue providing an essential service to those who need it, in a time of restrictions and over-stressed health systems.

What can individuals and organisations do to support global advocacy on disability and COVID-19?

Twitter participants described the use of stories as a key advocacy tool in promoting inclusion and in promoting the needs and experiences of people with disabilities. These should be accompanied by the collection of disaggregated data on sex, age and disability to support the development of accounts of the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on people with disabilities. The Chronic Illness and Disability Inclusion Project are rapidly gathering evidence for a UK parliamentary inquiry into the unequal impact of COVID19, you could reach out to them if you have a story to share.

We also learned of many examples where people have written to local media and also used social media as an advocacy platform.

Taking a twin-track approach to responding to the needs of people with disability was identified in twitter responses. This means mainstreaming adaptations for people with disability within all COVID responses, but that this should be coupled with disability specific responses to ensure protection and support. This was highlighted as particularly important by twitter participants in enabling the attainment of essential supplies. For example, specific opening hours in supermarkets are one example of a key mechanism to ensure inclusion and adaptation.

Organisations who can provide social protection and financial support to people with disabilities who will be hit harder by the pandemic was described as essential. We do not understand well enough how this can be done in low- and middle-income countries.

Developing clear action plans for the inclusion of people with disability during the crisis period was also thought of as essential. These should be developed in collaboration with people with disabilities. Global and country specific plans are both equally as essential.

Additional information about disability inclusive responses in the COVID-19 response?

Throughout the twitter chat we were inundated with responses that highlight particularly useful information sources in supporting disability inclusive responses. We have summarised these information sources in a table to enable us to continue to learn together.Summary table of information sources on disability and COVID19

Download the table

From the recommendations of our tweeters, it was clear that in looking for further information, always look first for information shared by people with disabilities, representative organisations (such as national federations of disabled people) and their caregivers.

If you are a frequent twitter user, why not also follow all of our Expert Tweeters who are constantly sharing useful resources.