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Rita Vella – What have we learnt?

Published 10 Sep 2021

X'tgħallimna mill-Pandemija? Il-pandemija tal-COVID-19 mil-lenti ta' persuni b'dizabilita' u l-familji tagħhom What have we learnt? The COVID_19 pandemic told through the stories of persons with disability

The Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) is launching an exciting new campaign on the lessons learnt from the pandemic in relation to the disability sector. Called ‘X’Tgħallimna mill-Pandemija?’, the campaign gleans the findings and recommendations from a number of reports commissioned by CRPD during or about the COVID-19 pandemic. The reports point out not only how persons with disability were affected by the pandemic itself but perhaps more so by the social and economic impact deriving from restrictive measures put in place to control its spread.

Told through the stories of seven persons with disability, the campaign aims to show that behind every public policy and every public measure, there are persons whose lives can be affected immeasurably, and how persons with a disability cannot be excluded or forgotten, when public decisions are taken.

 

Rita Vella

Everyone - disabled or not - needsto have the right to choose. Rita Vella.

FINDING: The Covid-19 response within Malta throughout the first few months after the first few cases was rapid. However, the consensus amongst the interviewed persons with disability was that the measures implemented, while necessary, were not nuanced enough to accommodate the disability sector.

RECOMMENDATION: Second a person well-versed in disability issues in public health – an officer or representative of the disability community should be permanently stationed within public health authorities. This will ensure that decisions will be catered and nuanced at source rather than going through the burdensome and cumbersome process of providing feedback on each measure.

You can read the following research reports below:

 

My name is Rita, I am 48 years old and I have a physical disability. I have problems with my lungs and have breathing difficulties because of my condition, muscular dystrophy, which makes me very vulnerable to COVID-19.

Because of the pandemic, my life had to change completely and this affected me to the point that last year I had no choice but to stay home for four months, shut inside my house, without anybody coming near me. This created a lot of anxiety and stress as my personal assistant was the only person who had any contact with me.

At the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Health Authorities, I was one of the persons considered as vulnerable. Unfortunately after the letter to vulnerable persons was no longer in effect, people like me felt that we were no longer backed by the health authorities. After the letter was withdrawn, we were left on our own.

Even if I have a ‘severe’ disability, I try to lead an independent life as much as possible. I work part-time with CRPD. I must say that from the beginning I received all the support needed from my employers. I started to work from home and am still doing so, because it is the only safe place for me right now.

Fine, I took the vaccine but, because of my condition, I am still in danger. I still have to take a lot of precautions. Perhaps it is true there are not many people like me who are vulnerable and in employment, but why should we have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach?

Not everyone is vulnerable in the same way. Everyone – disabled or not – needs to have the right to choose. What about those disabled persons who were forced to go to work, even though they were vulnerable? Or those who had no choice but to stay locked inside, particularly those living in residential homes? Or those persons, who also had to isolate themselves, to protect their vulnerable family members?

I feel that these different situations need to be addressed by the Health Authorities in a better way. It is time that a person well-versed in disability issues in public health – an officer or representative of the disability community – should be permanently stationed within public health authorities, so that people like me are not forgotten.