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Although information abounds in times of the coronavirus pandemic, messages and the media have turned to update sensitive data on the current health emergency every day; But the population with disabilities in Colombia has suffered barriers and limitations due to content that is not, in most cases, built for them.

From the Faculty of Physiotherapy of the CES University of Medellín it has been shown that people with sensory disabilities, both visual and hearing, and people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities, are the ones who have experienced the most barriers to accessing information during this pandemic .

According to the 2005 census of the National Statistical Department (DANE), 6.3% of the Colombian population were people with disabilities. According to data from the same entity, in 2010 in Antioquia there were 75,134 people with disabilities. In Medellín, the Registry for the Location and Characterization of People with Disabilities with a cutoff to the year 2017, yielded a total of 57,554 citizens.

“Information is a powerful tool to decide and act, the absence or misunderstanding of it is an obstacle to responding adequately and emergencies can increase the vulnerability of people with disabilities. Inappropriate modes of communication can deprive those with communication barriers of critical emergency information and; without accessibility in this case, there is no self-care, ” warned Margarita Correa Restrepo, professor of Physiotherapy at the U. CES.

For example, blind people cannot access information disclosed in written form, since they read through the Braille system. On the other hand, many of the software such as JAWS converts the information displayed on the computer or telephone screen into speech, but does not read files in PDF or JPG format.

Another of the most frequent barriers is faced by the deaf population that communicates through the Colombian Sign Language -LSC-. Not all are users of Spanish and do not read or write it. For this reason, speeches, television news and conferences should always have an LSC interpreter and subtitles or closed captioning.

“The LSC makes use of body movement and facial gestures and sometimes deaf people can even do facial lip reading; With the use of the conventional mask, they could not understand the facial expressions that complement the communication and could not read what the person may be saying ”, added the teacher Correa.

Finally, people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities often use Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems, such as images, drawings or symbols and also require that the information be friendly enough, that is, short and clear, which in the population with disabilities it is called easy to read.

Photo of student practicing Colombian sign language

Photography: Shutterstock

“In our context, information about COVID-19 and in general that related to health, is loaded with technical information that is often incomprehensible for people with disabilities, but at the same time, the amount of information that is disclosed and changes all the time, it does not facilitate their assimilation. For example, changing the peak and ID every week may not be convenient for some people with disabilities who create habits and adapt to previously established routines, causing misinformation and generating confusion, which does not favor compliance with protocols and regulations. guidelines given by the authorities ”, he emphasized.

The Faculty of Physiotherapy warns that the lack of adequate information, during emergencies, reduces the capacity of caregivers and care centers, including long-term institutions, to care for and support people with disabilities. In addition, new health emergencies can create a new generation of people with disabilities due to complications, lack or lack of medical care and mental and psychological problems generated by the contingency.

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