31 May 2021
OpenWHO reached a milestone during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing an accessible online course for people with disabilities. This course provides COVID-19 prevention materials in Indian Sign Language as well as content for children with disabilities.
With more than 54 000 enrolments, the course is designed to empower the maximum number of people by providing information tailored to people with a wide range of disabilities. It has already made an impact, offering much-needed support for the disabled Indian population.
“Being represented and heard as any other individual is the biggest privilege one could have in a society. While the whole world prepares themselves in their own ways to prevent and protect themselves from the spread of the pandemic... what children and adults with different abilities need is the information to be rendered in their own ways to understand the world and the happenings. I believe the OpenWHO materials on COVID-19 have also reduced the stress and anxiety of caretakers on ‘how to talk about the pandemic’ to these children,” said Dwitheeya Pathiramanna, a psychologist and early interventionist in India.
To spread information about the course to stakeholders across India, the Rehabilitation Council of India has included it in the list of WHO modules recommended for rehabilitation professionals to upgrade their knowledge and skills during the pandemic.
The course has also been highlighted by national and international media. It has been reported on by The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in both English and Hindi, and by international media production company H3 World in international sign language. Reports from national newspapers like The Hindu and Indian Express have encouraged the public to enrol in the course, which was also retweeted by Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s Chief Scientist. Furthermore, NewzHook, an Indian media firm, listed the course in the top 10 accessibility initiatives of 2020.
Indian regional language news channels have also been promoting enrolment in the course, such as in the South Indian language Malayalam. Asianet News has conducted an exclusive interview with B.S. Vinayachandran, who provides sign language interpretation in the course, while Mathrubhumi News broadcast a talk show with him about the materials for children with disabilities.
Across social media platforms, many famous personalities and associations have tweeted, re-tweeted and shared information about the course to spread the news around the world. Shashi Tharoor, Member of Indian Parliament, writer and former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, has tweeted the course information with the course link to spread the word globally. Additionally, the president of the World Federation of the Deaf shared the course information through Facebook.
According to WHO (2018), 6.3% of people in India have hearing impairment, with 63 million people suffering from significant auditory loss. The course provides support and accessible information to a large portion of the public and supports WHO’s initiative of Health for All.
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