The world is facing an unprecedented experience in which ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) are almost the only possibility for people to communicate with one another. Humanity never before faced such digital dependence to access vital information or essential services and products to survive. Therefore, the importance of accessing information and instructions during the COVID-19 pandemic period is crucial for all people, regardless of our gender, ability, age or location.
For this reason, it is essential that key digital information on COVID-19 is
distributed and available in accessible formats to ensure that it will reach all people and that no one will be left behind, including persons with disabilities, in particular those with visual or hearing impairments that require the use of alternative solutions such as screen readers, captioning or sign language to read and understand digital information. Otherwise, many persons with disabilities will face a higher risk of contamination due to a lack of access to information on the measures to be considered and respected in this pandemic period.
Therefore, it is critically important to use multiple modes of communication like accessible websites, phone, radio, videos, leaflets, captioning, chats, etc. in addition to providing information in plain language, easy to read and in accessible formats. The availability and awareness of dedicated helplines which aim to ensure that public health information is accessible (including relay services for deaf and hard of hearing people) is essential to mitigate the spread and impact of the global pandemic.
Many persons with disabilities rely on regular home delivery of essential items for their wellbeing like medications, hygiene products and food. Therefore, in addition to the potential adverse impact of social distancing and breakdown of support networks, if retailers and healthcare product and service providers and other key organizations do not ensure the accessibility of their on-line information, services and products, many persons with disabilities will not only be at a disadvantage but their lives may be put at risk, due to a lack of access to vital information, medication and other critical products and services.
Given the major role of the ICTs in the global COVID-19 pandemic, the following guidelines containing key messages and actions are provided to ensure that digital information, services and products delivered globally are accessible to all people including Persons with Disabilities, and no one is left behind in this global challenging crisis.
KEY MESSAGES AND ACTIONS