This Call for Action is produced by Blind SA (A National DPO) inconjunction with the World Blind Union (the global organisation representing the estimated 253 million persons who are blind and partially sighted worldwide). The actions are in line with recommendations by other Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (DPOs) and reflect the urgent needs of Blind SA and WBU constituencies following the spread of COVID-19 and responses to the pandemic.
Blind SA and WBU recognises the diversity of needs among persons with disabilities, especially in times of crises, and urges the South African Government and relevant stakeholders to adopt inclusive approaches to “leave no-one behind”.
Participation and inclusion
1. We call on government to establish Covid-19 Task Forces, inclusive of all persons with disabilities including persons who are blind and partially sighted and their representative organizations to monitor the evolving needs of persons with disabilities and advise on the implementation of inclusive response plans, programs and strategies.
Access to information
2. We call on government, local and national agencies to provide information related to Covid-19 in accessible formats including large print, braille, accessible multimedia as well as written, audio, plain-language. In addition, we urge all broadcasting and mass media networks to ensure that information and announcements on Covid-19 are accessible to blind and partially sighted persons.
3. We request government to provide toll free phone numbers where persons who are blind and partially sighted can access relevant public information and appropriate emergency support.
Violence against blind and partially sighted women and girls
4. Recognising women and girls with disabilities are the most at risk of exploitation, violence and abuse due to the isolation and social distancing requirements, we call on law enforcement agencies, human rights organizations and civil societies working in the area of gender- based violence to put in place appropriate measures to prevent all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse with appropriate assistance and support towards women and girls who are blind and partially sighted.
5. We call on government to ensure that appropriate and effective mechanisms are available to identify and intervene to prevent instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against women and girls who are blind and partially sighted.
6. We request government to provide reasonable accommodation and support measures for blind and partially sighted women and girls who are dealing with daily home chores including childcare, cooking, house keeping etc.
7. We call on government to establish inclusive emergency response programs that address the specific needs of blind and partially sighted living in both urban and rural areas and those who are homeless.
8. We urge government and emergency relief agencies to ensure that emergency response packages including financial aid programs, registration processes and application forms for emergency relief support are fully accessible to persons who are blind and partially sighted.
9. We urge government to provide additional financial support to caregivers and family members who are assisting persons who are blind and partially sighted.
10. We call on government to exempt persons who are blind and partially sighted from personal income taxes to be able to afford basic needs.
11. We call on government to consider increasing disability financial relief during this period of the Covid-19 pandemic.
12. We call on government and relief agencies to ensure that blind and partially sighted persons will be given high priority in the event of evacuation and distribution of emergency relief supplies and services.
Groceries and home supplies
13. We urge all retail chains and consumer goods and suppliers, supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential businesses to ensure that online shopping services are fully accessible to blind and partially sighted persons. We also recommend that blind and partially sighted persons must be given priority in fast shopping deliveries. In cases where online shopping is not available, we strongly recommend that businesses to dedicate special hotlines where persons with disabilities can call and order their products.
14. We urge businesses to ensure special hours are provided for blind and partially sighted shoppers.
15. We recommend that the persons assisting blind shoppers to respect social distance and provide verbal instructions on how to navigate the shopping facilities.
16. We call on all education Departments to put in place accessible online schooling systems and ensure that parents or children guardians who are blind or partially sighted can fully access education materials so they can provide adequate support to their children.
17. We call on government and health authorities to provide accessible health equipment and services to blind and partially sighted persons.
18. We recommend that government, private sector and non for profit organizations put in place reasonable accommodation for blind and partially sighted persons working from their homes.
19. We request government to provide extra incentives to employers to sustain employees especially blind and partially sighted persons who are at a higher risk of losing jobs.