On the 18th of May EUD took part in a webinar on the human rights violations of persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak. The webinar was organised by the European Disability Forum (EDF). The webinar had a rich set of presenters, which included representatives from the Disability Unit of the European Commission (EC), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the European Network of Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) and the European Parliament, as well as recognised disability experts at the EU and international levels.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it by governments created situations of severe infringement of the rights of persons with disabilities: inaccessible information, lack of access to communication in hospitals, isolation, abuse and neglect in residential institutions, measures that impeded community-based support and an increase of violence, in particular against women and girls with disabilities.
Victoria Lee, from the Human Rights and Disability Team of the OHCHR, highlighted two important reference documents at the international level: Guidance Note by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on how the COVID-19 affects persons with disabilities (available in International Sign here), as well as Guidance Note by Michelle Bachelet, UN’s Human Rights Chief, on the need for States to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of persons with disabilities during COVID-19 (available here). Inmaculada Placencia-Porrero, Senior Expert at the European Commission, informed that the European Commission is collecting information from EU countries on the situation of persons with disabilities through the Disability High-Level Group. She explained that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will involve persons with disabilities through their representative organisations in upcoming guidelines.
Katrin Langensiepen, Member of the European Parliament (EP) and Chair of EP’s Disability Intergroup, underlined that COVID19 pandemic has shown the importance of implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the European Union and its Member States. She highlighted the lack of adequate action plans to target specific groups, and she emphasised on the importance on ensuring a strong and ambitious European Disability Strategy post-2020 that will also cover the experience of the COVID19 outbreak.
Other presenters included Caroline Fennel, Chair of ENNHRI and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, who explained that National Human Rights Institutions have started providing remote assistance to reach persons with disabilities experiencing isolation during lockdown. Rhoda Garland, from Equinet, referred to its new database on how National Equality Bodies have provided assistance during the COVID19 outbreak.
The COVID19 outbreak and its containment measures have undermined the wellbeing and human rights of all persons in Europe. Deaf persons have been impacted disproportionally, as in many cases they have struggled to access their right to communication in healthcare facilities or have encountered numerous barriers to access essential information on latest measures taken at the national and EU levels. In this regard, EUD created a new section in its website with information about accessibility of information in national sign languages about the COVID-19 containment measures in all EU Member States. Also, EUD published a COVID-19 report with information on the main challenges and human rights violations that affected deaf persons across Europe (access it here).
EUD will continue to monitor the effects of the COVID19 pandemic and containment measures on deaf persons across the EU.
EUD would like to thank EDF for organising this webinar.