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COVID-19 Preparation Must Include People With Disability

People with disability must be included in all plans to manage the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

“People with disability need to be included at every stage of this public health crisis, so that we can manage our risk of catching the virus, and make sure we can keep getting the supports we need,” said Jeff Smith, CEO, People with Disability Australia.

“We call on the Federal Government to urgently update the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 to include the needs of people with disability. In addition, people with disability must have a place at the table when talking about how we respond to this emergency.”

“PWDA also calls on all state and territory, as well as local governments, to consult fully with people with disability about their emergency planning. The private and community sectors should work with people with disability to ensure their plans are fully inclusive as well.”

“For people with disability with NDIS plans, we need contingencies in place to ensure that essential supports continue, such has been outlined for older people,” said Mr Smith. “For the other 90% of people with disability, we need to ensure that the mainstream health system is accessible, and that we receive equal treatment to non-disabled people.”

“People with disability need to know what to do if their support workers are sick, or need to self-isolate, as well as how to access extra support if they need to remain at home. In addition, disability support workers need to have access to sick leave if they are exposed to the virus.”

“People with disability need to know where to get essential supplies to keep themselves safe, such as hand sanitiser and sterilising equipment, particularly when they are running low and if they need to self-isolate,” said Mr Smith.

“We are pleased to see the Federal Government take action to allow more telehealth consultations to take place, which is what has been needed for many years. People with disability who are housebound have long campaigned for more access to telehealth,” said Mr Smith. “The new $100m investment will make a real difference to people with disability, and we will campaign for this to continue to be available permanently.”

“All communications about COVID-19, including the new national campaign, must be accessible to people with disability. We need to see Easy Read material widely available, as well as Auslan and captions used in all emergency broadcasts,” said Mr Smith. “In addition, any testing or fever clinics must be fully accessible to all people with disability.”

“We welcome the widespread adoption of work-from-home technology and policies, as we know that this is an essential accessibility tool for many people with disability. PWDA urges all employers to adopt flexible work arrangements, including those that people with disability need.”

“Many people with disability will need to self-isolate, as they are at high risk for the virus. Employers, schools and other educational facilities need to put appropriate measures in place to make sure we can continue with work and education, and are not penalised for taking this vital public health measure,” said Mr Smith.

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