COVID-19 – coronavirus pandemic

The Australian Government’s Department of Health website is the central, national source for up-to-date information and advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The following fact sheets are available on the Department’s Advice for People with Disability webpage:

  • Information for Families
  • Information for Disability Support Providers and Workers
  • Guide to personal protective equipment (PPE) for disability care providers
  • Information for support workers and carers on coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for people with a disability
  • Information for Health Workers in Emergency Departments
  • Information for Health Workers
  • Information for Health and Mental Health Workers
  • Information for Primary Health Care Staff
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guide for Home Care Providers

There’s also information on:

Australian Government Response Plan to Pandemic for People with Disability

The Australian Government created a Management and Operational Plan for COVID-19 for People with Disability to provide a targeted response for people with disability, their families, carers and support workers. Download it here 

Deafness Forum contacted the Government to offer assistance in improving the Plan. On behalf of members we explained that during an emergency good communication becomes of much greater importance and the need for communications to be both audible for vision impaired people and visible for hearing impaired people becomes essential. Read Deafness Forum’s comments about communications in Government Response Plan to Pandemic 2020

Disability Information Helpline

Disability Information Helpline can help families, carers, support workers and services. It’s free, personal, private and fact checked. It’s funded by the Australian Government. Phone (free call) 1800 643 787. Call via the National Relay Service on 133 677. The Helpline is available Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm (AEST) and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 7pm (AEST). It’s not available on national public holidays.

NDIS participants

The National Disability Insurance Agency said it is taking necessary steps to prepare and support participants and providers. Read more at https://www.ndis.gov.au/…/ndis-a…/ndis-and-disaster-response

Importance of captions in Government announcements to the community

It is dangerous that captions are increasingly NOT being included in the Government’s emergency and disaster announcements when they appear on social media.

An estimated 1.2 million Australians rely on captions every day, and there are countless more who find themselves in busy and loud environments (or are listening to music) when they watch social media.

It is great to see that Auslan interpreters are being included in emergency and disaster broadcasts for the 10,000 people in Australia whose first language is Auslan.

All government announcements no matter how they are delivered must have BOTH an Auslan interpreter and Open Captions – these are captions that are a permanent feature of a video, meaning that you can’t switch them off so they will appear in any replays of the original broadcast, including social media.

The best thing we can do as a community is to add a comment to every Government video we see on social media when captions aren’t there – “where are the captions?” And tell your friends to do the same.

A statement by Deafness Forum Australia about the importance of accessible communications during this pandemic

One in six Australians live with a hearing loss that impacts their daily lives. We comprise one of the largest categories of persons with disability in the world with over 466 million persons have a disabling hearing loss.

Many of these people have an additional disability(s), making them particularly vulnerable in this health pandemic.

We experience communication issues that make it hard to interact with other people. These issues can result in loneliness, anxiety, and depression. We face challenges with social distancing and the use of face masks which impedes lip reading.

Information from the media and social media sources must be captioned

Deafness Forum of Australia has been seeking the support of television broadcasters to provide open captions on all public emergency announcements.

We support the current accessibility arrangement that includes a sign language interpreter in these announcements for the 10,000 Australians whose first language is Auslan. However, there is a large number of Australians – estimates are in excess of 1 million – who rely on captions every day. This includes people for whom English is a second language, children with learning difficulties and particularly, older people who may use hearing aids or cochlear implants, and the many people who have no aided support to assist with their hearing.

Emergency broadcasts on television must have Open Captions – these are captions that are a permanent feature of a video, meaning that you can’t switch them off so they will appear in any replays of the original broadcast, including social media.

Service providers must provide accessible communications

We want providers to offer the option of text messaging versus verbal telephone contact, and use of the National Relay Service and National Auslan Booking Service (the latter for medical and health-related appointments).

Video communications must be captioned.

We urge all governments, their agencies, businesses and community groups to commit to making their communications accessible in this time of national crisis.

For organisations in our community sector

This is a message from Deafness Forum to its member organisations and others about the need to be prepared to deal with the current health crisis and to make an Epidemic/Pandemic Policy.

You can create your own policy & procedure by using a template created by the Institute of Company Directors Australia. It is free for NFPs and can be downloaded at Epidemic-Pandemic Policy template Mar2020