I recently had the opportunity to be part of a group of Human Rights Defenders who travelled to the Northern Region of Uganda as a part of a research on Assistive devices for persons conducted by the Digital Human Rights Lab in Partnership with POLLICY Uganda, a group of Data Enthusiasts, feminists and Researchers.
Even after having experienced the challenges that came with the country wide lock down during the COVID 19 epidemic, it had not occurred to me that communities living with disabilities were having it worse than most of us. Due to the lock down a lot of them were going through adverse economic challenges caused by the stay at home campaign, failure to access health facilities due to both distance and curfew challenges - It was sad to learn how PWDs living with HIV and on ARVs relapsed and some even passed on during this period not to mention the mental health challenges that affected both the PWDs and their caregivers who are mostly women and girls because of stress and depression arising from this. Hard to miss was the increase in domestic and gender based violence and cases of alcohol and drug use increased tremendously. Another challenge was the inability to observe the SoPs (masks and sanitizing) because of affordability but also the nature of their disability (e.g someone who moves using their hands may not see the necessity of continued sanitizing especially when they are at home where even access to clean water is a challenge. The biggest Challenge of course lack of information since many of them did not have access to online and assistive devices to get information on time - Persons with visual and audio impairment were mostly relying on second hand information. The internet shut down that came with the post COVID 19 lock down elections took away their right to citizen participation meaning even fewer PWDs got the chance to exercise their right to vote or stand for legislative offices due to limited information and political violence.
Never the less it was a relief to see their representatives turn up for meetings to formulate communities of practice that would see them develop ideas for future reference by policy makers when developing community programs and also for further opportunities for improvement of persons with Disabilities during National emergencies. My question as I conclude is: What are you doing in your community to enable persons living with disability to access assistive technologies to better their lives during the Post COVID era?