ILMI Statement on the impact of Covid19 on the lives of Disabled People

Press Release from the Independent Living Movement Ireland.

Disabled People must not be an afterthought in planning emergency responses to Covid19

Today (Thursday 12th March) issued a press release in relation to Government emergency planning in relation to COVID19 (Coronavirus).

Too often in responding to emergencies, it accidentally follows that Disabled people come as an afterthought, with key messages relating to our lives absent from messaging around Statutory responses and public health announcements, or edicts that neighbours or “kind people” out there should look in on us and interpret to us the public messages which were not prepared or presented with our communication difficulties in mind ” said Des Kenny, ILMI Chairperson.

“It is vital that disabled people have information available in accessible formats including public service announcements in Irish Sign Language, Easy to read and accessible documents that can be used by screen readers for people with visual impairments. We also need to ensure that information is available in accessible forms for those without access to the Internet, by pre-recorded help-line numbers.”

ILMI is concerned that voluntary bodies working with or on behalf of disabled people are always the “go-to” sole authorities when arrangements, services or, in this instance, measures are being designed to support and protect us to avoid or minimise the effects of contracting COVID19. Disabled people and their representative Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) should always form part of any panel or advisory group set up to advise on measures which affect us directly.

James Cawley, ILMI Policy officer added “We disabled people are not only concerned about the potential impact of COVID19 on our health or our loved ones, we are also concerned about vital support systems that give us choice, control and freedom to live independent lives.

For many disabled people, the personal assistance service (PAS) is one support service that needs to be continued, recognized and supported over the course of any measures at containing the spread of the virus to ensure people can live independent lives to managing self-isolation at home.”

“Where different measures, in time, may be taken to delay transmission, HSE services need to recognise the vital role that Personal Assistance play in giving autonomy to disabled people’s lives with measures put in place that this vital support service continues with minimal disruption.

Many disabled people will not be able to self-isolate without the supports provided by Personal Assistants and this needs to be borne in mind as the State response evolves accordingly. Protective clothing, gloves and masks should be given in advance to disabled people with personal assistants to allow the personal assistants continue in their support role for as long as possible with maximum protection should the disabled person go into self-isolation. Additional budgetary measures to tackle Covid19 need to include resourcing Personal Assistance for disabled people to work and live at home” added Mr Cawley.