Enabling the disabled to protect themselves against COVID-19 in Johannesburg

The challenge that the project addresses

The project seeks to tackle the immediate challenges and underlying drivers of the exclusion and vulnerability of people living with disabilities. These challenges and drivers are listed below: 1. Risk of infection with COVID-19 in homes and public spaces is higher for people living with disabilities, especially those with physical, mental and intellectual challenges.2. COVID-19 education and awareness messages are framed, packaged and disseminated mostly with able-bodied people in mind, with little or no consideration of the vulnerabilities of people living with disabilities.3. The role of family members, care-givers and service providers in terms of pyschosocial support, information sharing and practical mitigation has not been clearly contextualized to be responsive to COVID-19-related challenges.4. There are no platforms (online and onsite) at municipal and national levels for facilitating the sharing of knowledge, experiences and messages of hope in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, among people living with disabilities and their care-givers.5. Needs and requirements of people living with disabilities are not prioritised when financial and human resources are allocated at family, community and national levels.

What is your project doing to respond to this challenge?

Project activities are primarily designed to enable people living with disabilities to respond, adapt and learn as part of adopting a new way of living in face of health, social and economic challenges emanating from COVID-19. It is designed to fill the gaps in the framing, packaging and dissemination of COVID-19 awareness, acknowledging the vulnerabilities, needs and requirements of people living with
disabilities. The target will be people living with physical, mental and intellectual disabilities. With a focus on formal and informal residential areas in the Randburg and Roodepoort district municipalities, the project seeks to implement interventions grounded in three pillars:
(1) Accurate Disability-Responsive COVID-19 Messaging,
(2) Socialisation of Disability-Responsive Interventions in Homes and Public Spaces,
(3) Creation of Social Platforms for Enhanced Learning and Pyscho-Social Support, and
(4) Discerning Practice and Policy Insights for Post-Response Phase Interventions for People Living with Disabilities.
The project will be implemented, guided by clearly defined safeguarding principles so as not to harm all project participants, beneficiaries and other stakeholders. The key activities include:
1) A fact sheet/poster on practical steps on how people living with disabilities can protect themselves against COVID-19 in homes and public spaces will be produced. The steps will include practical tasks that family members and care-givers can undertake in support of people living with disabilities. This will be developed, with reference to general mitigation and prevention recommendations that have been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and South African Ministry of Health. Printed information sheets will be disseminated to households and care centres where people living with disabilities reside.
2) To promote awareness on specific needs and requirements of people living with disabilities in the quest to prevent the spread of COVID-19, posters (described above) will be displayed in public spaces (e.g., shopping malls), municipal notice boards, school premises and public transport ranks. This will be done to sensitise the general public and specific service providers on the need to put in place infrastructure and protective equipment that can be accessed by people living with disabilities. The audience (readers of messages) will be directed to online resources (e.g., dedicated facebook and twitter accounts) on ways to support families and centres catering for people living with disabilities.
3) Through a dedicated social media platforms, to be designed specifically for this project, people living with disabilities, their families, caregivers, service providers and the general public will have opportunities to share experiences and ideas. These will be platforms for them to explain how they are coping, practical steps they are following to prevent infections, emerging best practices, questions that require answers from specialists and ways to support each other emotionally. The platform will be purposefully managed and moderated to ensure that feedback, perceptions, concerns and suggestions coming from project participants and other stakeholders are carefully analysed and requisite follow up and responses made.
4) The project will generate useful evidence, based on actual experiences, that can be used to draw standard practice and policy implications to ensure long-term consideration of the needs and requirements of people living with disabilities in the fight against COVID-19. This will be packaged and shared with disability programming practitioners, local authorities and potential sponsors of follow up projects.

Describe the project's impact

1) Creation of a new platform for raising awareness on the needs and requirements of people living with disabilities in response to COVID-19 in formal and informal settlements.
2) Generation of evidence on practical modalities and specific steps for self-care and support for the protection of people living with disabilities in the face of COVID-19 for adoption at household, care centre and public space levels.
3) Recognition and action for making disability-responsive infrastructure and provision of appropriate equipment in homes and public spaces by families, care centres and service providers in public buildings.
4) Establishment of social network that connects people living with disabilities, their families, caregivers, service providers, well-wishers and the general public, facilitating the flow of information, generation of new knowledge on COVID-19 coping mechanisms, creation of informal and formal referral pathways and building of resilience and pyschosocial support initiatives.
5) Adoption of standard practice and policy implications to ensure long-term protection of people living with disabilities in the fight against COVID-19.
6) Generation of insights on foundational approaches for working people living with disabilities and all supportive groups around them (socio-ecological approach) to persuade prospective donors of follow up scaled-up projects.