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Int’l Day of Persons with Disabilities marked with focus on accessible post-COVID world

By JT - Dec 03,2020 - Last updated at Dec 03,2020

AMMAN — The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which falls annually on December 3, this year is commemorated under the theme “Building Back Better: Towards a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 World”.

Countries around the world observe the day, taking stock of its theme, and shedding light on the challenges persons with disabilities encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the health and economic impact borne by nations the world over.

Over the last nine months persons with disabilities and their families endured grave challenges and conditions, resulting from the precautionary measures put in place to prevent a spread of the disease, according to the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (HCD).

This, in turn, negatively affected students with disabilities’ access to education, due to the fact that e-learning platforms are inaccessible and not inclusive of their access requirements, the HCD said in a statement.

Students with disabilities in higher education institutions also faced similar challenges, with websites and online platforms in need of design and development vis-à-vis the various access requirements that enable them to utilise and interact with such platforms.

Persons with intellectual disabilities were the most affected by the conditions brought about by the lockdown, with their moods changing continuously; their accumulative knowledge-based and behavioural skills deteriorating over the course of the last months, regressing and losing perhaps the benefit of years-long work, due to the interruption of their educational, rehabilitation, social and behavioural programmes.

“The pandemic caught us all off guard, placing us all — institutions, stakeholders and individuals concerned with disability issues alike — in an unwanted position that is not to be envied, requiring us all to respond quickly and answer to the gaps and needs in the face of a lockdown, the interrupted face-to-face teaching, and limited mobility,” the HCD said.

“With your help and support, we were able to overcome many of the grave challenges. We were able to provide e-curricula for students who are deaf and blind via our website, specialised platforms and on various social media platforms.

“Our staff members worked tirelessly to meet the needs of many of our brothers and sisters; fathers and mothers; and sons and daughters with disabilities, who were left to fend for themselves,” the council said.

Together with partners, the HCD also provided medical supplies and treatments via the Jordanian Charitable Physician Organisation and the Spinal Cord Injury Society.

In addition, and through partnership with the Hashemite Charitable Organisation, the HCD provided daily living supplies, while its collaboration with Al Basira (Vision) Initiative and the Habayebna Platform the council provides the minimum educational requirements for students who are blind and those with intellectual disabilities.

The pandemic has revealed the need for a comprehensive system of emergency services that are inclusive of the access requirements of persons with disabilities; a recommendation reiterated by the HCD on more than one occasion, and more recently to the Crisis Control Centre and the Prime Ministry.

“Today, as we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we look ahead beyond the pandemic, toward our collaborative efforts and partnerships, which are undoubtedly a moral obligation, and not a choice,” the HCD said.

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