A study, conducted in 14 states including Assam and Meghalaya, found that 42.5% of Indians with disability reported difficulties in accessing routine medical care during the lockdown.
The study was conducted by Hyderabad-based Indian Institute of Public Health (a constituent unit of Public Health Foundation of India) in collaboration with CBM India.
During the study, it was found that the Covid19 pandemic impacted the health and mental health and rehabilitation, education, livelihood and social participation of persons with disabilities.
The study titled ‘Impact of Covid-19 on persons with disabilities in India’ was conducted to understand the level of disruption on the living conditions of persons with disability due to the pandemic and related restrictions, and generate evidence for future pandemics or emergencies.
The study had a sample size of 403, of which 60% were male and 40% were female.
The respondents had different impairments including 51.6% with physical impairment, 16.1% with visual impairment, 19% with intellectual impairment and 9.2% with speech and hearing impairment.
The study was conducted across 14 states in India – Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Maharashtra.
Isolation, abandonment, and violence were other worrying psycho-social problems reported, showing the lack of empathy during the difficult times.
During the study period, 81.6% reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress.
Among the 34.5%, who stated that they needed information on mental health issues, only 25.9% had access to such services.
Only 20% were able to get regular mental health counselling or therapy-related services during the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, and 11.4% faced problems getting their regular psychiatric medicines.
The study said 58.2% were unhappy that the therapy sessions for their child with disability had ceased during the lockdown.
“84.2 percent stated that their daily lives had been impacted. The lack of mobility both in rural and urban areas led to distress,” it said.
Prof GVS Murthy, director, IIPH 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 comprise the health needs of people with disabilities as the country has committed itself to the goal of Universal Health Care as part of SDGs,” Prof Murthy said.
Echoing the view, Dr Sara Varughese, managing trustee, CBM India said, “Lockdown had a negative psychological impact on these differently-abled and one of the most common reasons stated was economic difficulties.”
“Many faced difficulties in even accessing basic necessities. Incomes were compromised and even withdrawing their money from their bank accounts was a challenge,” Dr Varughese said.
“Another major concern that was raised was the needs of Persons with disability was not taken into consideration while developing the guidelines on Covid-19 response,” Dr Varughese added.