There need to be clear protocols when it comes to persons with disability and every mitigation plan needs to be inclusive or we risk leaving persons with disability behind on our way to normality.  

Voice  of the Workers spoke with Oliver SciclunaCommissioner for the Rights of Persons with a Disability, who explained that there is a lack of foresight regarding the protocols that need to be followed when, for example, providing therapeutic services, community services, respite services and services at day care centres. It is very important that authorities are guided regarding what can and cannot be done without risk when providing these services and what mitigation measures can be taken.  

As was done for restaurants and hairdressers, the Commission for the Rights of Persons with a Disability expects a protocol for services provided to persons with a disability.  There must be a plan for when these services will resume on how they will be provided, where they will be provided and what precautions will be taken. There are certain services, such as speech and language therapy, that are being provided online, albeit in a limited fashion, because these services are more effective when provided face-to-face. 

It appears that the Commission was barely consulted by Government, although a Disability Task Force was specifically set up because of the COVID-19 situation.  This Task Force, that meets every week, is made up of people with a disability and interested parties and organisations that work in the sector.  Although the Commission was not consulted, it has always emphasised the importance of making sure that the measures that were implemented were inclusive and that certain precautionary measures, such as the use of masks, were not always practical for people on the autism spectrum, those who have respiratory problems and persons who are hearing impaired.   

Having said this, persons with a disability are benefitting from the benefit of €800 per month for employees with a disability who are working full-time and part-time with the private sector and who cannot go to work because they are at risk. There was also assistance given to parents of children with a disability.  In instances where parents could not telework, they were given a benefit to allow them to stay at home to take care of their children, even if their children are 16 years and older. 

A service was also set up to help with grocery shopping, distribution of medicines and even the provision of cooked meals for the elderly and people with a disability particularly during the period we were in a semi-lockdown.  

However, the Commission has been contacted regarding a number of cases where persons with a disability were faced with problems at the workplace, both in the public sector and the private sector. The CRPD was able to tackle these issues successfully.  

Although it is satisfied with the measures that Agenzija Sapport and other organisations have taken, the Commission for the Rights of Persons with a Disability feels that more importance could have been given to the disability sector in general. Oliver Scicluna talked about children with a disability who had to stop going to school because of the Coronavirus who have been facing big challenges with their families. Some people stopped receiving therapy weeks ago and are at risk of losing all that they and their parents had achieved prior to the pandemic. 

The Commission for the Rights of Persons with a Disability notes that, while the Government is easing restrictions so that the economy can restart, it needs to ensure that the measures that are taken in this regard are planned and do not jeopardise physical access. 

Voice of the Workers calls for everyone to fight the Coronavirus together. Let us not forget persons with a disability.