On the 17th of September, EUD attended a webinar entitled ‘Highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities’ which was co-hosted by the European Disability Forum (EDF), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Governments of Germany, Israel, Norway and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This side event was intended to raise Member States’ awareness about the recent landmark resolution WHA74.8 adopted by the World Health Assembly and three of its pillars for promoting disability inclusion across the health sector.
Dr Hans Kruger, WHO Regional Director for Europe, explained that the resolution expands the concept of medical care provided for persons with disabilities, seeking to change healthcare from the medical model to a holistic social model that focuses on the individual. Furthermore, WHA74.8 emphasises the principle that persons with disabilities must sit at the table with the decision-makers and be equal partners in shaping decisions concerning their lives. Mr Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the EDF, highlighted that the pandemic has revealed the ongoing challenges and obstacles faced by persons with disabilities around the globe. Mr Vardakastanis outlined these challenges which include physical and attitudinal barriers as well as barriers to information and communication.
Ms Shirley Pinto talked about her experience as a deaf sign language user in the Israeli Parliament, as well as the communication challenges that face masks have posed for deaf people during the pandemic. Israel was given as an example of a country that emphasised making health services accessible to persons with disabilities in terms of rapid and easy access to vaccines, COVID-testing, in-home support, and transparent face masks.
Each presenter highlighted that the approach to equitable access to healthcare is based on ‘Nothing about us without us’ principle, which aims at involving persons with disabilities in the decision-making process at all junctures. In conclusion, the webinar addressed challenges and barriers faced by persons with disabilities in the health sector and the need for accessibility, which is an obligation under Article 25 of the United Nations Convention of the Right of Persons with Disabilities.