According to the world blind union, it is estimated 285 million people are Blind and vision impaired. worldwide with about 90% of them living in low-income countries. Of all the school-age children with visual impairment, less than half were receiving education.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that has now enveloped the whole world, most governments took drastic measures of shutting down institutions of learning.
I affirm as a Blind fellow in the low-income country it is worse to be Blind at this Corona period.
This is because of the educational inequalities ranging from attitudinal, institutional and existence of the environmental barriers.
To put matters differently Blind and vision impaired persons are experiencing quadruple worries:
Lack of inclusive education Corona policies
Lack of skills and lack of assistive technology,
lack of devices needed for reading and writing
Lack of available of even traditional modes of technology while at home e.g. Brail books, adaptive graphics.
Inaccessible built environments
Increase of discrimination
Additionally, all these issues have rendered individuals with blindness to suffer. Evidently in most countries they have provided alternative learning through the 4th revolution uptake of digital learning but not having the blind and vision impaired in mind.
Am very sad to say the list since the approaches and techniques adapted by most ministry of education has ensured Blind, visually impaired and Deafblind have been left behind.
Notably, over 80% of all incidental learning and the performance of activities of daily living are dependent on sight.
The SDG slogan “don’t live us behind”” is unwanted ringtone to many blind and vision impaired.
The barriers experienced by many blind and vision impaired persons range from usage of non-visual chats, inaccessible contents, non-inclusive plans,
Lack of affordability of the radios and television among blind and vision impaired persons since poverty and disability are twin brothers.
Inaccessible modes of learning and channels of media.
Someone should educate me how braille will be examined virtually!
Someone should tell me how the adapted sciences will be examined virtually.
To be a student in the corona era seems to be a torture chamber by itself.
Its not that blind and vision impaired were not facing these challenges before but Covid 2019 has excarnificated the experiences.
Another instance is the experiences of girls and women who are blind and vision impaired are at higher risk of gender-based violence and it’s on record with the self-isolation guidelines many will be taken advantage.
I won’t be surprised to know the pregnancy rates have increased.
Human rights reports in several countries have shown how persons with disabilities are stuffing in the hands of close relatives and family members.
Lastly, the real, refugee set ups and internally displaced individuals who are blind and vision impaired are worse hit since they aren’t able to access the alternative mode of learning and support mechanisms are not in place.
The voice of the Blind and vision impaired seemed to have been stung led by the lack of alternative formats of Corona and then ensured to instigate the burial ceremony by many state and non-state actors.
Moreover, most governments do not have inclusive emergency plans in place thus persons with disabilities come as a second thought.
Is this fair for many students who are blind and vision impaired?
UnCRPD, many constitutions expressly advocate for right to education.
All in all, even under normal circumstances, persons who are blind and vision impaired are less likely to access health care, education, employment and to participate in the community. They are more likely to live in poverty, experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse, and are among the most marginalized in any crisis-affected community. COVID-19 has further compounded this situation, disproportionately impacting persons who are blind and vision impaired both directly and indirectly.
An integrated approach is required to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in COVID-19 education response and recovery. It calls for placing them at the centre of the response, participating as agents of planning and implementation. All COVID-19 related action must prohibit any form of discrimination based on blindness and take into consideration the intersections of gender and age, among other factors. This is necessary effectively and efficiently to address and prevent barriers inclusion will result in a COVID19 response and recovery that better serves everyone, more fully suppressing the virus, as well as building back better. It will provide for more agile systems capable of responding to complex situations, reaching the furthest behind first.
governments need to put measures in place to ensure many blind and vision impaired persons do not fall in to the cracks.
I would like to see inclusive strategies adapted to ensure that no one is left behind.
The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.
Australian Chief Minister Award winner
“excellence of making inclusion happen”