While Ken Behrens was able to give Canberra a laugh and a slight reprieve from the depressing COVID news cycle, it also presented an opportunity to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by people with a disability during the pandemic.
Jenny Atkinson, who runs the ACTQueer and Queerberra groups, noticed the discrepancy in how the auto-captioning mishap was interpreted after making light of the situation with her friends with disabilities, who then thought she was “taking the mick” out of the subtitles.
“I [want to] stress how important accurate subtitles are for people with a disability,” she said. “[It] should be part of the story.
“People with disabilities get left out so much [and] this story can highlight it.”
The ACT Council of Social Service’s head of policy, Craig Wallace, said he shares concerns about access to information in a range of formats.
While the ACT Government has been picking up and addressing these issues relatively quickly, the organisation will call out measures that do not meet the high standards required, Mr Wallace said.
“The ACT Government is responding fairly well this time around, including through its sensory vaccine clinic and in-reach testing for people with disabilities,” he said.
“But we want to see good, timely communication into the disability community, noting that this is a fast-moving issue.”
ACTCOSS has also called for a more comprehensive government strategy within the confines of the upcoming budget, saying accessibility measures need to be in place across all of Canberra’s primary and acute health settings outside of COVID times.
Mr Wallace said ACTCOSS remained focused on ensuring Canberrans with a disability were able to get vaccinated, considering the cohort has been eligible to receive a jab since February.
Fewer than one in five people in residential disability care were vaccinated at the end of June.
The vaccine rollout for people in both residential disability and aged care is primarily the role of the Commonwealth Government, but Mr Wallace said any vaccination targets that lead to an easing of restrictions in the ACT need to explicitly consider the vaccination rates of vulnerable people.
“We need up-to-date data by population group including people with a disability, released at least weekly, so we have an idea of the vaccination rates,” he said.
“We need transparency and to address any barriers to vaccinations that people with a disability are facing.”
People with a disability who need to access in-reach COVID-19 testing throughout this lockdown can call the ACT’s COVID helpline on 6207 7244.