As COVID-19 continues, it remains more important than ever to ensure that public health information and emergency relief materials are delivered in an inclusive and accessible manner. In Tanzania, Isack Idama has worked extensively to share COVID-19 knowledge with the disability community and educated disability rights advocates and government officials on how to ensure COVID response tools are used inclusively. In this article, Isack shares how he has contributed to disability inclusion in the fight against COVID:
My name is Isack Idama. I am a disability activist from Tanzania and an ADA International Fellowship alumnus. I took part in the program in Fall 2017 at the University of New Mexico and have informed the public, government officials and disabled peoples’ organisations (DPOs) about how to protect with disabilities from COVID-19 in many ways.
DISABILITY AND COVID RELIEF – TRAININGS AND PROTECTIVE GEAR
I have been involved with training sessions on the distribution and use of COVID-19 protective gear to people with disabilities. During a one-day training in May 2020 at the offices of SHIVYAWATA (Tanzania Federation of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations), I helped train 10 DPO leaders on how to use COVID-19 protective gear donated by charitable organizations. A major issue has been that most charitable organizations have donated protective gear to DPO members without providing training or resources to inform them or other people with disabilities on how to use the protective materials effectively.
The training was delivered in a training-of-trainers (TOT) model so that the DPO leaders who attended could share the same knowledge with their own staff and stakeholders.
As a person with a disability, I have made every effort to ensure that I am safe for the entire period of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the availability of adequate protective gear for all people with disabilities remains a challenge.
I have also participated in a media campaign with the Tanzanian disability community to raise awareness about to how to protect people with disabilities from COVID-19. In April, I took part in a roundtable discussion in a BBC Swahili Radio program on COVID-19 and people with disabilities. During the program, I provided listeners with information about self-defence against COVID and also explained the role of government and other stakeholders. I also recommended ways that the government could support people with disabilities, suggesting that there be a sub-committee on a local level that would provide targeted COVID-19 public health education to community members with disabilities. I also recommended that the government give hand sanitizer to visually impaired individuals, who are often guided by touch and regular handshakes. My recommendations on the broadcast was heard by individuals across Tanzania and in five other countries – Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO TANZANIA’S GOVERNMENT
In addition to the suggestions I made on the broadcast, there are several important recommendations I have for the government:
- I urge the government to make sure it trains local government officials on how to help people with disabilities in their communities at the grassroots level.
- Communities/families living with person with disabilities should be provided with training on how to ensure they protect the disabled, especially those of the visual, intellectual impairment and other disabilities of the higher degree
- Protective gear should be available at an adequate level in all areas, especially in rural regions where there are limited resources and facilities.
- Private sector actors such as media houses should make sure that information and messages are provided in accessible formats.
Isack Idama is a Fall 2017 ADA International Fellowship alumnus. He spent his Fellowship at the University of New Mexico Center for Child and Human Development.