Kymberly Martin

COVIDSafe app presents challenges for people with disability

There are some challenges facing people with disability when it comes to the COVIDSafe app, according to People With Disability Australia.

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“Many people with disability may not have access to suitable phones to run the app,” CEO Jeff Smith told F2L. “And recent changes to allow people with disability with NDIS plans to purchase a suitable device to access disability support during the current COVID-19 measures, would not cover the COVIDSafe app, as it is not a disability support service,” he said.

Smith also raised concerns about any technology that may expose details of people with disability, who needed to meet privately with advocacy services, such as when seeking help to deal with violence and abuse.

PWDA will be watching closely to ensure that no people with disability are told they must install the app, for example, to receive disability support services. “We are pleased there cannot be any discrimination against people with disability who choose not to download the app. We are also waiting to learn more about the accessibility features of the app”, he said.

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National Disability Services said many of its providers, including some of the largest, have already uploaded the COVIDSafe app to staff corporate phones and are encouraging their workforce, clients, families and support networks to do likewise on their private phones, CEO David Moody told F2L.

“NDS supports the app as a means of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and increasing the confidence of those working in the sector and people with disability that, as a community, we’ll be better able to find and contain outbreaks quickly. If as a result we can reduce and eventually eliminate social distancing, isolation and other restrictions that can only be a good thing for disability service providers and their clients,” he said.

A voluntary coronavirus app, COVIDSafe was launched by the government to speed up how those exposed to COVID-19 can be notified. The app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases so state and territory health officials can quickly contact people who may have been exposed.

It can be uploaded to Android 6.0 and iOS 10 or higher, and iPhone 5S or higher model smartphones, but because there are limits as to how far a new app build can go for Bluetooth and security capability, older mobiles cannot upload the app.

The app can be deleted at any time from the smartphone, however, information in the secure storage system will not be deleted immediately but destroyed at the end of the pandemic. To delete information from the storage system sooner, complete the request data deletion form.

Once the app is downloaded with name, mobile number, postcode and selected age range (see Privacy), a confirmation SMS text message is sent to complete installation. The information is encrypted and stored securely on a smartphone, then deleted on a 21-day rolling cycle. This period takes into account the COVID-19 incubation period and the time it takes to get tested. For more, see Privacy.

The app can be downloaded easily by searching COVIDSafe in an app store or visiting: www.health.gov.au. For more information go to: COVIDSafe help. Read the COVIDSafe Privacy Policy for details on how personal information collected in the app is handled.

 

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