Coronavirus and human rights: New guidance highlights support for persons with disabilities

May 2, 2020

UNDP Bangladesh/Fahad Kaizer – In Bangladesh, the UN Development Programme and partners have rolled out emergency support to vulnerable communities.

New guidance issued on 30 April 2020 sets out key actions, to counter what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the “double risk” faced by persons with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic. As Michelle Bachelet explained, not only are people with disabilities at higher risk because of the crisis, they also are disproportionately affected by response measures such as lockdowns. “People with disabilities are in danger in their own homes, where access to day-to-day support and services may be limited due to lockdowns, and some may suffer greatly from being isolated or confined”, she said. “Persons with disabilities face even greater threats in institutions, as care facilities have recorded high fatality rates from COVID-19 and horrific reports have emerged of neglect during the pandemic.”

The UN rights chief added that making information about the virus available in accessible formats is vital. She also expressed concern over discrimination and stigma at this unprecedented time. “I have been deeply disturbed by reports that the lives of persons with disabilities may somehow be given different weight than others during this pandemic”, she said. “Medical decisions need to be based on individualized clinical assessments and medical need, and not on age or other characteristics such as disability.”

The guidance note published by the UN human rights office outlines steps governments and stakeholders can take during the pandemic. They range from discharging persons with disabilities from institutions, to increasing existing disability benefits, and removing barriers to COVID-19 treatment. Prioritizing testing and promoting preventive measures within institutions to reduce infection risk are other recommendations. Additionally, the guidance spotlights promising practices already in place in some countries. For example, in Switzerland and Spain, some persons with disabilities living in institutions were moved out to be at home with their families, while authorities in Canada have issued priority COVID-19 testing guidelines with specific measures for these settings.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1062912

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