Covid concern: Vaccinate the differently abled at home, say Para athletes
Suvarna Raj, an international para-athlete and President awardee, recently got her first dose of Covid vaccine. Soon after, she took to social media and tweeted this: “#Vaccinated Got #Covisheild first dose, the process was smooth & accessible. But faced difficulty to get appointment on #CowinPortal.The #CoWin App & Portal are not accessible for the #Divyangjan.@socialpwds. @MoHFW_INDIA. plz make these #Accessible on a priority basis (sic).”
Raj’s demand to vaccinate the differently abled including para-athletes at their place of stay/home, has opened a pandoras box on the need to facilitate vaccination facilities at home, for persons with disabilities. Her tweet further read that people with disabilities are unable to visit the vaccination centres due to “accessibility” concerns. She has therefore written to Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, and health minister Satyendra Jain, to seek vaccination for persons with disabilities at their residences.
Sharing how those in dire need of assistance, even when at home, should be vaccinated at their residences, Raj tells us, “Sabko pata hain without appointment vaccine nahin lag rahi hai. The website, firstly, is not accessible to the visually impaired. Hum log assistive devices use karte hain aur sabse zyada khatra hum logon ko hi hota hai. Aisi cheezon pe virus do se chaar dino tak rehta hai. Hum isliye chahte hain ki vaccination ghar pe ho jaaye, for all those who need an assistant to be with them. Baaki jitne log centre pe jaa sakte hain, woh jaaye.”
Tokyo bound para athlete Devendra Jhajharia, a javelin thrower, is also in favour of getting vaccination at home, especially when the Paralympics are slated for August-September, later this year. “Unko ghar pe hi lagna chahiye. Jo vishesh taur pe blind hain ya wheelchair bound hain unko bahut problem hoti hai bahar jane mein. Aur sirf Dilli sarkar hi nahi, sare rajyon ki sarkar ko ye suvidha apnani chahiye so that all those who are differently abled can get the Covid vaccine shot at their home,” he says.
Badminton player Palak Kohli, too feels that one should get priority if the need be. She is also looking forward to Tokyo Paralympics, and points that “If you want help and you appeal for it, there’s nothing bad. It’s good that Suvarna is creating awareness about this concern. And jo self effort kar sakte hain, vaccine centre pe jake lene ke liye, they should do that.”
Paralympic high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu, feels those with a spinal injury should be vaccinated at home or have a certain dedicated facility for them. “It would be of great help if the Covid-19 vaccination is arranged at the home location of physically challenged persons, since they have to face a lot of difficulties to get vaccination at the available spots. More of the visually impaired and the wheelchair bound persons must be allowed to avail the vaccination at their home, just like the pulse polio vaccination!”
Gursharan Singh, secretary general, Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), says Raj’s request is “genuine”. “Since she’s wheelchair bound, the government should accept this. And the para athletes who are visually impaired, wheelchair bound, or if suffering from cerebral palsy and various severe disabilities, of course they’ll not be able to go and stand in the queue for long hours. It’s also very difficult to go anywhere in absence of any available mode of transportation, because of the lockdown,” he opines.
And Rio Olympic silver medallist and para athlete Deepa Malik, who has got both the doses of Covid vaccine, feels that the disability sector is the “most vulnerable” in the society. “Considering the fact that public transportation is not so active at the moment, and people are scared to come out, there should be a criteria. A person like me, who is empowered, has facilities and can afford a vehicle and drive to the Covid centre. So those who can manage to do it, should do it . Whereas those who are from the marginalised sections and are physically challenged and can’t afford a proper care giving facility; there we can make a provision for the same.”
Malik adds that the same “should also be extended to senior citizens who are staying alone”. She opines: “We have to differentiate, and can’t generalise this. I am also concerned for those who don’t have a smart phone as the registration for the vaccination is another challenge. In the mobile app software, an option can be made for a provision to upload a BPL card and section where it says that a person is non-ambulant, underprivileged and physically challenged or senior citizen(s).”
Author tweets @Nainaarora8