I personally never really thought of this topic and I don’t know much about assistance to handicapped people. Nevertheless I want to write about two interesting events I heard of recently.
On TV I saw a news clip about a local organization for the blind and visually impaired. They had issued an Ebola information leaflet in braille. Even though by now many comics and picture explanations are available to reach the illiterate, doesn’t mean that really everybody is reached. And the blind have a very real risk of contracting Ebola: Many depend on body contact to other people, for instance when they use the services of a personal assistant. This hold true generally for many people with handicaps: They might need assistance in everyday life, and this assistance includes frequently body contact, for example getting assistance with dressing, visiting the bathroom, eating etc. Handicapped people are clearly at risk.
Thomas Alieu, Executive Director of the Educational Centre for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Sierra Leone, says:
“The visually impaired people were feeling very vulnerable in the fight against Ebola, and there was a real sense of loneliness. This was primarily because in the Ebola outbreak, people are encouraged not to touch each other, but for the visually impaired, this makes it very difficult to go about in daily life.”
A local caring home for Polio victims send an email to me and asked if Welthungerhilfe would be able to distribute food to the inhabitants. Due to the Ebola crisis the number of staff was reduced to a very minimum and everybody tries to avoid any contact to the outside world in order to keep the inhabitants safe. Therefore it would be of great help if food would not have to be acquired on the market, where it is crowded and body contact can happen accidently.
For me it’s clear now that handicapped people might suffer from lack of access to information and that the sometimes impaired mobility is also creating many different problems. People with handicaps need special attention during project implementation, no matter if it’s an emergency like Ebola or long-term development projects. Everybody should have a chance to participate.
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This article is a translation of the original German article.