The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities warned against measures that aim to fight the COVID-19 pandemic but are impossible for people with disabilities, thus leaving them behind. SDG target 8.5 calls for achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities. The 2030 Agenda also stresses that “people who are vulnerable must be empowered. Those whose needs are reflected in the Agenda include … persons with disabilities (of whom more than 80% live in poverty).”

People with disabilities need additional guidance and support for protection during the pandemic, and this may not be possible with total self-isolation and social distancing. Catalina Devandas, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, pointed out that some rely on others for basic survival needs, including to eat, dress, and bathe. Some services that are essential for people with disabilities may be suspended, and they may not be able to afford home deliveries, stockpiles of medicine and food, and other measures.

Among her suggestions:

  • Allow people with disabilities to work from home, or provide paid leave;

  • Allow family members and caregivers to support people with disabilities;

  • Provide financial aid to prevent greater vulnerability or poverty for people with disabilities and their families;

  • Ensure people with disabilities in institutions, psychiatric facilities and prisons can continue having contact with loved ones, to prevent abuse or neglect in the institutions; and

  • Make information on preventing and containing coronavirus accessible to everyone, including by providing them in sign language and other accessible means, modes and formats (e.g. captioning).

The UN expert urged States to establish clear protocols to ensure that access to health care does not discriminate against people with disabilities.

The Special Rapporteur is an independent, voluntary expert for the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). [Statement of Special Rapporteur]

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