The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on disabled people

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities expresses its grave concerns in a new report

On 9 June the United Nations Human Rights Committee issued the following statement:

Statement on COVID-19 and the human rights of persons with disabilities 

“The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities expresses its grave concern at the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has not been comprehensively implemented by States Parties. It has starkly exposed the heightened vulnerability and risks to persons with disabilities that is underpinned by entrenched discrimination and inequality.

Persons with disabilities are often wrongly perceived to be inherently vulnerable, when it is attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers that result in situations of vulnerability. While many persons with disabilities have health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19, pre-existing discrimination and inequality means that persons with disabilities are one of the most excluded groups in terms of health prevention and response actions and economic and social support measures, and among the hardest hit in terms of transmission risk and actual fatalities.

COVID-19 pandemic highlights that protection, response and recovery efforts will not be effective unless everyone is equally valued and included. Critical and urgent action is required to ensure that those most at risk, including persons with disabilities are explicitly included in public emergency planning and health response and recovery efforts.

The CRPD outlines the normative legal standards to address discrimination and inequality, and these standards need to be integral to COVID-19 protection, response and recovery measures.

To this end, the Committee endorses the OHCHR guidance note, COVID-19 and the rights of persons with disabilities: Guidance and the UN policy brief, A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19, and recalls the joint statement, Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19 by the Chair on behalf of the Committee and the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility and the appeal by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.

A human rights approach is critical to response and recovery efforts not only in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to ensure that States take action now to build equitable, sustainable and resilient societies that have the mechanisms to prevent and respond rapidly to future public health emergencies and to ensure that ‘no-one is left behind’.

9 JUNE 2020