A spokesperson for the local disabled community is lamenting that members of that vulnerable group are facing significant challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic.
While pensioners were given the opportunity to go to post offices across the island to cash their pension cheques today, some disabled persons were unable to do so due to a number of reasons including not being able to leave their homes because of chronic health conditions.
And according to the President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled (BCD) Kerryann Ifill while the pensions of some members of the community are sent to their bank accounts, some have no access to the money because financial institutions have temporarily discontinued over-the-counter transactions as a result of the pandemic.
She said some of the disabled folks are unable to access funds through the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) because they do not have the means to do so.
“Some persons with disabilities are pleased that they can go and access their pensions today and tomorrow but others are still at a very big disadvantage. For example, if you are a person whose health is severely compromised and you were urged not to leave home, how do you get access to changing your cheque?
“Provisions were put in place for persons 70 years and older but I didn’t hear what will happen for a person with a disability. Now again, it could be that I missed the announcement, but that is one area of great concern.
“What about the old gentleman who called me before 7 o’clock one morning last week in tears because he needs to go into the credit union to access money, or the old lady who has a phobia about the ATM that she is now cut off [from accessing funds on her account],” Ifill said.
The first female President of the Barbados Senate also sought to explain that in the past, some financial institutions would have discouraged the elderly and persons with disabilities from getting ATM cards because of various security risks.
Noting that her intention in speaking up is not to highlight faults in the system, Ifill said as a result of these developments, some members of the community are now cashless and unable to purchase basic necessities, including food and toiletries.
She also said that some members, living with chronic conditions, are also concerned about their now limited access to healthcare facilities.
“Another area that is of great concern is increased violence and abuse of persons with disabilities. How do you stay safe when home isn’t a safe place? I heard of a situation where there is a family who adequately supplies the needs of their children. One of them has a disability and the institution where he used to go daily give him a food package to take home, but now that schools are closed, how will he get fed?”
Communication is also a matter of concern for us, Ifill said.
“There is also a desperate need for better communication at this time. These are areas that we have drawn to the attention of people before this pandemic, but you know while they weren’t that important before they are vitally important now especially when you are being inundated with information.
“People are taking advantage of your fears and sending out scare mongering tactics,” she added, referring to voicenotes which are in circulation. “There must be a better way to communicate with us in the community,” she said.
Nevertheless, Ifill said despite the several difficulties members of her community have been facing during the pandemic, they too pray it comes to an end soon to allow people the opportunity to embark on new endeavours.
“I have persons who plan to start using virtual classrooms to conduct classes for students with disabilities that have not been there before. I have other people who are learning new skills because they are at home unable to go out.
“Things that they would not have looked into before they are now looking at now. Then of course there are those persons who are taking the opportunity to start new businesses. So those are the positives that are coming out of this situation we are facing at this time,” she said.