On Saturday May 23rd, 2020, Dr. Lynn Rose, CGDS Deputy Director, participated in the webinar “COVID-19 and its Impacts on the differently-abled community.” The webinar was sponsored and produced by WDRPA, the World Disability and Rehabilitation Professionals Association, with which CGDS partnered for the event.
On Saturday May 23rd, 2020, Dr. Lynn Rose, CGDS Deputy Director, participated in the webinar “COVID-19 and its Impacts on the differently-abled community.” The webinar was sponsored and produced by WDRPA, the World Disability and Rehabilitation Professionals Association, with which CGDS partnered for the event. CGDS has been funded since 2018 by an EU grant that focuses on international education, particularly, in the MENA region, about issues of gender inequity. We take an intersectional approach, including issues of people with disabilities and other minorities in our investigations. Thanks go also to Mr. Paywand Ata of Horizon Relief and to Mr. Mahdi Abdullah of the Handicapped Union of Kurdistan, for providing current information about people with disabilities in the KRG during the pandemic.
Dr. Lynn addressed the question of the role of rehabilitation professionals to assist people with disabilities during the pandemic. She said: “We hear the phrase ‘We’re all in this together,’ but are we?” Especially in the global south, there are many ways in which COVID-19 aggravates the disadvantages of people with disabilities. Rehab professionals, therefore, need to continue to educate themselves about the universal impact and the local impact. The universal issues include the fact that many people with disabilities have underlying health conditions, which puts them at risk, but also that many people with disabilities rely on rehab professionals for assistance and communication, thus making social distancing difficult. Other universal impacts are the increase of domestic violence, issues of home schooling, difficulties getting food, the Lack of technological access, and neurotypical online cultures. The NGO Horizon Relief and the Handicapped Union of Kurdistan report on some of the problems specific to people with disabilities in Iraqi Kurdistan. The difficulty of getting food and medical supplies under the curfew was compounded here because of an inaccessible infrastructure. People with psychosocial disabilities had an especially hard time with the strict isolation. Violence increased against disabled women and girls. Lockdown was total here for quite a while. It really helped with the spread of the disease—we have relatively few cases of COVID-19 here now—but it was put into effect suddenly, and there was no respite care for caregivers. The economic fallout here was pronounced, and still is.
Many people with disabilities receive small government salaries, but this is an oil economy, and no government salaries have been paid since January. If rehab professionals educate themselves and the community, they can raise our awareness about disability, not only during the pandemic, but permanently. She concluded she saying: “Maybe we can make the phrase ‘we’re all in it together’ real, and maybe we can all be in it together after the pandemic ends.” Also participating in the webinar were WDRPA country representatives from the US, Australia, India, Poland, and the Netherlands. Topics ranged from accommodation and accessibility during the pandemic to the roles and responsibilities of rehabilitation professionals. There were 483 audience members.