Following recent lobbying efforts for disability inclusion within the Fijian Government’s COVID-19 response, Organisations of persons with disabilities in Fiji has forged partnership with the Ministry of Health to map a way forward to assist over 116, 000 persons with disabilities and their families, prepare and correctly follow the safety measures in place for keeping safe during this pandemic. This is a breakthrough for the organisation of persons with disabilities to be able to engage with the Ministry of Health as such critical time as this for persons with disabilities, who are most at risk and vulnerable.
The Fiji Steering Committee which is made up of five disabled persons organisations namely the Federation of Disabled Persons in Fiji, United Blind Persons of Fiji, Fiji Association of the Deaf, Spinal Injuries Association and Psychiatric Survivors Association have secured a chance for their members needs to be addressed by the Ministry of Health in Fiji.
Following a verbal agreement with the Permanent Secretary of Health, Dr. James Fong, the Committee has been advised that they will be meeting with the Ministry’s COVID-19 Risk committee to put together a Standard Operating Procedure for Persons with Disabilities.
This is a major step towards the realisation of the rights of persons with disabilities in the country and specifically the 13.7% of the country’s population who are persons with disabilities.
The Committee and the Pacific Disability Forum applaud the inclusion of a sign language interpreter during all public announcement by the Health Ministry however calls are being made to ensure that other disabilities are taken into consideration. Some simple ways to ensure the communication and information is accessible to all persons with disabilities includes the use of illustrations and simple words to assist those who have autism or psychosocial disabilities and those with intellectual disabilities, information that are displayed on the screen during national press conference such as emails or phone numbers and other information should be read out clearly and not stated as ‘refer to email and phone numbers on the screen’ as persons with visual impairment, such as a person who is blind will not be able to see the screen and read the numbers, emails etc.
The Pacific Disability Forum has been working closely with the Fiji Steering Committee in its advocacy efforts to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left out in decision making as well as accessing messages with regards to COVID-19 and the health support services.
The PDF is also working with other Pacific Island countries and Territories to ensure that the same is replicated around the region, ensuring that the preconditions to inclusion are met, such as accessibility, ensuring that all communication and information is accessible to all persons with disabilities.
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