New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown period have severely impacted mental health, education, livelihoods and social participation of persons with disabilities (PWD), a study conducted by the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Hyderabad, has found.
At least two out of every five persons with disabilities (42.5 per cent) reported difficulty in accessing routine healthcare and 28 per cent had to delay their medical appointments during the lockdown period. The study also found that 58 per cent PWDs with pre-existing health conditions faced difficulty in accessing routine medical care.
Titled ‘Impact of Covid-19 on persons with disabilities in India’, the study was released Thursday. IIPH, a constituent unit of the Public Health Foundation of India, had conducted this study during the lockdown period in collaboration with CBM India, a leading organisation in disability inclusive development.
As many as 403 PWDs took part in the study, of which 60 per cent were men and 40 per cent women. The respondents had different impairments — 51.6 per cent with physical impairment, 16.1 per cent with visual impairment, 19 per cent with intellectual impairment, and 9.2 per cent with speech and hearing impairment.
It was conducted across 14 states, including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Maharashtra.
G.V.S. Murthy, director at IIPH Hyderabad and lead author of the study, said, “People with disability suffered significantly more than the rest of the population in accessing health and rehabilitation care during the Covid lockdown. We need to be adequately prepared so that we do not compromise the health needs of people with disabilities as the country has committed itself to the goal of Universal Health Care as part of Sustainable Development Goals.”
81% reports high levels of stress
The study noted that 81 per cent PWDs reported experiencing high levels of stress due to factors such as isolation, abandonment and violence during the lockdown period.
While 34.5 per cent said they needed information on mental health, only 25.9 per cent had access to services such as counselling. Just 20 per cent were able to get regular counselling or therapy during the lockdown period and 11.4 per cent faced problems getting their regular psychiatric medicines.
More than half of the respondents also noted that continuous lockdown would have a deleterious effect on their health. Of the 35.7 per cent PWDs who said they needed medicines during the lockdown, nearly half (46 per cent) claimed they faced problems in procuring them.
About 58 per cent who needed regular blood pressure monitoring failed to do so, noted the study. Among 5.2 per cent respondents who needed surgical intervention, 47.6 per cent could not get it done. Among the 17 per cent requiring rehabilitation services, 59.4 per cent failed to access them.
The study also gave suggestions to help improve the lives of disabled persons. Some of these are inclusion of PWDs in the implementation of plans, policies, strategies and programmes; facilitating telemedicine and online counselling for them; and disabled-friendly Covid-19 protocols.