This blog post was contributed by Rowena Dinah Koloi is a 2020 Study of the US Institutes (SUSI) alumn representing Bostwana on the topic of civic engagement for young African global leaders. She is a highly motivated young woman who has seen the beauty of life with one eye (visually impaired). A final year student at BA Lisago University, studying Bachelor of Commerce in real estate. She is also a published author of a motivational book titled “A Walk to Remember”. It is a record of her life journey events as a person who was able to live beyond her disability. She is also a disability activist, a motivational speaker and believes that “having a disability will never stop me from achieving my goals.”
People with disabilities are at a high risk of catching the virus because of a lack of information about the spread of the disease since they are being overlooked by society. It is evident that this group is a minority, hence marginalized, and people still think disability can be measured by what can be seen. Well abled people are seen as a true representation of perfect humanity. Basic facts and information about COVID-19 are not inaccessible formats needed by people with disabilities, such as braille, large print, sign language, audio provisions and graphics.
Social distancing also does not favor people with disabilities especially those in-home care, as they face a greater risk of contracting the virus through their caregivers or helpers.
I carried out research interviewing a few people with disabilities on the challenges they face trying in following the COVID-19 regulations and I was able to gather the following findings:
- People with disabilities who are handicapped find it challenging to wear a face mask, they need direct help from their caregivers, which expose them to a high risk of contracting the disease.
- People who have limited mobility or who cannot avoid coming into close contact with others such as direct support providers and family members are also at a high risk of contracting the virus.
- The use of hand sanitizers continues to be a challenge to those with skin problems.
- It is almost impossible for blind people to exercise social distancing
- Most information regarding COVID-19 are not accessible to screen readers
UPCOMING PROJECTS THAT SEEKS TO ADDRESS PROBLEMS PREVAILED DURING COVID19
- TEACHING TO BRIDGE GAPS BETWEEN STUDENTS- This program aims at bridging gaps between students with and without disabilities by offering free tuition services to students with disabilities in Palapye, Botswana to cover up for the time lost during the national lockdown. Programs that were introduced by the government during the lockdown period such as academic programs that were aired on national television excluded students with disabilities. For example, blind students were extremely not catered for on programs that were aired on the television while those with hearing impairment were not catered for on programs aired on the radio.
- INCLUSIVE VIRTUAL COVID19 PRECAUTIONS/REGULATIONS: We intend on shooting a video demonstrating the COVID-19 precautions using people with different disabilities and short video clips addressing how they have been able to cope during this pandemic. This will ensure that people with disabilities are also not excluded during this period. We also have graphic designs which we are still working on, the graphics are on COVID-19 precautions demonstration.