For the vast majority of India’s 200 million Persons with Disability (PwDs), Covid-19 has been a double whammy. Unlike many of us fortunate enough, work from home is not an option for them. Faced with an impossible choice between life and livelihood, they are losing both today!
A large number of PwDs are co-morbid and at high risk and the vaccine is a ray of hope that could enable them to take a shot at getting their livelihoods back. Unfortunately, the physical challenges, poverty, education, and accessibility are making this incredibly difficult if not impossible.
Most vaccination centers have limited if any accessibility, the online registration process is inaccessible to many and the logistical, financial challenges and having to hustle with the crowds at Govt. camps have pushed PwDs to the brink.
Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF) launched a free vaccination support project for PwDs on 25 April 2021 and by 28 April—within four days—we had received over 4,000 registrations from Mumbai alone. Requests for help are pouring in from PwDs across the country.
ABBF’s free vaccination support initiative offers PwDs the logistical, financial, technical, and emotional support they desperately need in order to get inoculated. We aim to facilitate wheelchair-accessible conveyance, partner with hospitals for separate vaccination cells for PwDs and special slots for people with Autism, and schedule dedicated vaccination camps for PwDs in partnership with govt and private vaccinators. Our volunteers are providing virtual door-to-door support for those that need it the most.
We need help to make this possible. The program needs financial support to fund logistics, hospital tie-ups, vaccination camps, and where needed also paid vaccines. Every INR 10,000 (US$ 130) can give the gift of life-saving vaccination to 4 PwDs and put them back on their feet.
Every bit counts, every life counts.....Let’s show them we care!
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It has been a testing month in trying to navigate the vagaries of the vaccination ecosystem, while continuing to set ourselves up to be able to ramp up. Access to vaccines has and perhaps will remain our single biggest challenge, however as we approached the end of May we saw some truly bright spots on the horizon and a very heartening success story with our first dedicated camp for PwD’s.
Our advocacy with the Mumbai Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) yielded some success with the provision for walk in registrations for PwD’s on specific days, however this still restricts PwD’s for only above 45 years of age and in many cases only with locomotor disabilities…..so our advocacy battle continues till they open it to all PwD’s irrespective of age and disability. We are also pleased that our petition in partnership with Project Mumbai for dedicated vaccination camps for PwD’s and Sr Citizens was accepted by the MCGM and we are very hopeful that we will be able to organize a series of camps across the city through June and beyond.
In the meantime, paid vaccination remains our biggest hope to make a quick impact and it was an absolute delight when S. L. Raheja Hospital, Mahim agreed to partner with us to host the very first exclusive camp for PwD’s on Sunday 30th May. ABBF could vaccinate 135 PwD’s and their caregivers in an accessible environment and with dignity across disabilities from autistic to vision impaired and from cerebral palsy to locomotive impairment. It was a festival of vaccination and the joy and relief on the faces of our beneficiaries was palpable. Here are a few pictures and some links to media articles to give you a sense of the mood you helped create.
30 May 31, 2021: Lokshahi News channel coverage - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky4WEOpefr0
We have positive developments with a few other private hospitals as well as private vaccinators and at this time are looking at multiple camps throughout June which will allow us to get cracking towards our goal to vaccinate at least 20000 PWD’s. Our partnership with UBER has also materialized and we are looking at around 4000 free Uber rides for PWD’s to start with and we utilized a few of those already for our camp on the 30th.
With your generous support, we have managed to raise approx. Rs 60 lakhs (~ $82K) represents about a third of what we need. While we are very early in this journey, we can foresee that momentum will pick up really quickly and with paid vaccination being a big part of the solution, our funds will dry up very quickly even before we can get to half our targets. Please tune into our Instagram/Facebook/ LinkedIn/Twitter handles, and continue to show your support by reposting and sharing our stories to generate more awareness. As an ally to our PwD’s, can we request you to also forward our plea with your endorsement to your networks and ask them to do the same. We need the collective power of global citizenship to make a dent into this vexed challenge.
Whilst completing this project will take many months and quarters, we are committed to seeing this through and continuing to look for models that will improve the impact per $$ spent . We will keep you apprised of how your donations are being used to make a tangible difference. Together we can rise up to the challenge and save both - lives and livelihoods!
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Your support and the energy of our volunteer force of good Samaritans is enabling us to continue to unravel the complexities of the challenge layer by layer. Our outreach to the PwDs continues to grow by the day and we are now connected with partner NGO’s in several cities to share learnings, networks, resources and success stories.
We are also delighted that Great Place to Work ®https://www.greatplacetowork.in/pwdvaccination/
has partnered with us to assist us for fundraising and for outreach to create a volunteer force that will serve as allies to the PwD’s and hand hold them through the entire vaccination process.
Our database management tool managed by our tech volunteers continues to evolve and we are now able to map PwDs into zones and map them to potential vaccination centers in proximity and know who needs logistics help to reach there.
We have helped hundreds of PwD’s to register them on the mandatory govt run Cowin platform. We are also pushing vaccine availability information at various centers to those that can travel independently, and this has enabled several PwDs to get vaccinated already.
With the public health systems stretched to breaking point, we have concluded we need a multi-pronged approached covering our PWDs between private and public vaccination centers. Towards this we put together a white paper shared with the local governments and we are pleased that this has resulted in some success. We have been assured that the local administration is working to create separate accessible infrastructure across multiple points in the city over the coming days.
Large private hospitals such as Apollo, Nanavati, Reliance and public hospitals such as Seven Hills, Nair, Cooper are promising support as soon as vaccine availability improves. We are also advocating with the central government to remove age, dosage and scheduling requirements for PwDs.
However, the biggest challenge is vaccine supply is terribly short, and we are making petitions to BMC, State and Central Governments to earmark some quantities for this specific cohort. We are seeing some support from the local municipal body but it needs to translate into support on the ground.
We are pleased to have our first batch of vaccinations at Reliance hospital providing full logistical support. It turned out to be a smooth 30 minute in-out process much to the relief of PwD’s.
Our outreach is also helping with more Media coverage and public awareness that is forcing some creative solutions like a drive-in vaccination center which is perfect for the differently abled and senior citizens:
We are making solid progress but the difficult part remains ahead of us. Your support for this mission by spreading the word in your networks is critical to our ability to move the needle for PwD’s. Together we can rise up to the challenge and save lives!
Thank you once again!
5161 lives have changed as a result of donors' support.