Vision-Aid COVID Response for the Visually Impaired in India

Life for people with Visual Impairment in India, has been very challenging during the recent wave of COVID. In consultation with many Vision-Aid partners, stakeholders and  beneficiaries, Vision-Aid is announcing a new COVID Response Program for the Visually Impaired. Here are the details. .  

Why a special COVID program for the Visually Impaired (VI)?

While everyone is impacted by COVID, here are some of the specific issues faced by the visually impaired community, over and above what the general population is facing.

 

Significant mobility challenges : Most visually impaired people rely on smooth, functional, public transport systems. In recent weeks, these have been shut down and are unreliable impacting mobility.Shortage of sighted volunteers : In normal times, many volunteers are willing to act as guides and during the pandemic they are most scarce. Whether it is a friendly stranger at the road who used to offer help in crossing a busy street, or a friendly neighbor who would lend a helping hand, the pandemic has made such support very thin. Social Isolation : For the visually impaired community in particular, social distancing has turned into complete social isolation which in turn is leading to compromised mental health, and physical health. Increased risks: Due to COVID India’s visually impaired are increasingly finding themselves in the need to navigate unfamiliar territory whether it is a crowded vaccination center or hospital, and their need to relay on touch to move around exposes them to more risks. Inability to compete for scarce resources : Whether it is medical advice, medicines, food or other essential resources, the shortage has created pressures in the system and those who are disabled find it harder to compete and survive Accessibility challenges : Even the online and digital world is unfriendly. In its effort to roll out online services and apps various agencies are neglecting the aspects of digital accessibility and many web sites and apps, which can be used easily by sighted persons are impossible to use for someone who only relies on screen readers. Whether it is trying to register on a COVID related web site or order medicines or food supplies online in a lockdown, many digital barriers make even seemingly simple things difficult.For those who actually contract the virus and need serious medical attention, imagine the plight of someone trying to navigate the currently overstressed hospital systems and trying to get care while being visually impaired. 

What Vision-Aid is doing for COVID?

Vision-Aid is offering several resources to the visually impaired community as a part of its COVID Response Program, including a vaccine drive (including financial support for vaccinations), free tele-consulting with doctors for persons with visual impairment affected by COVID, Support Groups to disseminate a range of useful information and resources for COVID, free yoga and wellness sessions, and other e-learning opportunities, especially designed for the visually impaired, and more.

 

Vaccine drive

1. Help visually impaired people locate the nearest vaccination centers.2. Where available, help visually impaired people to locate and go to Government centers to take the vaccine. If needed, provide financial help to cover transport costs for the travel.3. In case Government facilities are not easily accessible, provide financial support for vaccines from private hospitals.4. Where someone has a doubt or concern, arrange a tele-consult with a doctor or public health specialist to clear the doubts.5. Organize live online Q & A sessions to address questions and concerns regarding various aspects of vaccines  since there is abundance of misinformation. 

Medical Counselling and Support

1. Facilitate free virtual counselling by doctors for VI patients affected by COVID. Dedicated doctors will be identified and available who will prioritize Vis affected by COVID2. Publish a list of credible and useful online health resources (Doctors and Hospitals) vetted by Vision-Aid team 

Fitness & Health

1. Organize free Yoga classes custom made for the visually impaired, since many online Yoga classes are not suited for the blind or the low vision.2. Organize other Fitness classes the visually impaired.3. Organize COVID prevention awareness campaigns targeting the visually impaired.

 

General Support

1. Conduct mass awareness campaign among the visually impaired.2. Setup a website with useful resources for the visually impaired related to COVID3. Counselling and Information Helpline – via a WhatsApp group and Email group. Any visually impaired person in India can contact the WhatsApp or email group and members can try to respond with helpful information. The group is being actively managed by Vision-Aid volunteers4. Help the visually impaired register on COWIN portal if they are finding it hard.5. Help the visually impaired to navigate other accessibility issues on other web sites/apps related to COVID or day to day living needs during COVID 

Online education

Organize useful online classes which the visually impaired can take during stay-at-home periods and lockdowns to actively engage themselves and keep learning and productively engaged. VIsion-Aid is seeing a big spike in demand for such services and reacting to the same.

 

Vision-Aid COVID Resources

1. WhatsApp group for Visually Impaired Persons (Please share this with any person with Visual Impairment in India)https://chat.whatsapp.com/KFscxYiHyHh60FkfwLnIv52. Vision-Aid COVID email help line: covid@visionaid.org3. Vision-Aid COVID Web Site(coming very soon – stay tuned) Donations welcome!All programs in Vision-Aid depend on the generosity of donors. Anyone interested in contributing to support these programs is welcome to donate.Please click here to donate

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The launch of this new website gives us renewed hope that India will see more lives of the visually impaired being transformed.

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