The COVID-19 outbreak and the containment measures in place by the EU Member States have certainly impacted the program of work for 2020 of the European Union of the Deaf (EUD). In reaction to this, EUD has adapted accordingly to the exceptional circumstances. In this document, EUD highlights the measures that EUD has put forward since March 2020, to adapt to the containment measures and to respond effectively to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In view of the spread of the virus in Europe, EUD implemented remote work programs to protect its staff members. This included a EUD quarterly Board meeting via videoconference, planned to take place in Warsaw, Poland, on the 21st of March and the postponement of EUD’s 2020 General Assembly, planned to take place in Zagreb, Croatia, in mid-May.
On the 16th of March, EUD endorsed a joint statement by the World Federation of the Deaf and the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters calling on the need to ensure the full access to healthcare for deaf persons on an equal basis with others. On the 20th of March, EUD and the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters released a statement urging EU Member States and the EU institutions to provide accessible information in sign languages about COVID-19. The days after, containment measures included social distancing, lockdown and the closure of borders between EU countries. In this regard, the EUD Board published a video in International Sign on the 22nd of March explaining the new exceptional situation to thousands of deaf persons in Europe, and raising awareness about the precautionary measures to be followed.
EUD has also been active in monitoring the accessibility of official information and communication through sign languages about the COVID-19. On the 20th of March, EUD sent an open letter to the European Commission on the lack of accessible information and communication in International Sign of the EU’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, recalling its obligation to do so under Articles 9 and 21 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Throughout the last week of March, EUD collected information from its members about the accessibility of information and communication about the COVID-19 outbreak and its containment a result, EUD created a new section in its website, with an overview of this information.
During the weeks that followed the arrival of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe, EUD increasingly monitored possible human rights violations of deaf persons. In light of the changing scenarios across Europe due to the different measures taken different countries, EUD carried out four virtual regional consultations with its members per region in Europe – Nordic, Eastern, Western and Southern regions –. During these consultations, EUD received detailed information about how the COVID-19 outbreak affected deaf persons across Europe, collecting both good and bad practices. These virtual regional consultations took place on the 20th, 22nd, 27th and the 28th of May.
As a result of these consultations, EUD drafted a report which provides with the information collected from the national level about how the COVID-19 outbreak and the containment measures have affected the deaf communities in Europe. This report also contains information about the preferred format for the 2020 EUD General Assembly (with an online meeting, and in-person meeting or postponed to 2021), as well as the preferred topics for a series of webinars which will be taking place throughout the rest of 2020. EUD will send this report to the European Commission as soon as it is finalised.
On the 9th of April, EUD took part in a consultation session about COVID-19 by the World Federation of the Deaf, due to its status as regional co-operative member for the European Region. On the 28th of May, EUD represented the European and North American region in a Focus Group Discussion on COVID-19 for the International Disability Alliance (information will soon be published).
On the 19th of June, EUD held its first webinar: Transposing EU accessibility legislation into national laws: the role of the National Associations of the Deaf. The webinar included the participation of Ms. Inmaculada Placencia Porrero, Senior Expert in Disability and Inclusion at the Directorate-General Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission.
The EUD team will to actively seek alternatives to ensure the full achievement of its strategic objectives for 2020 while adapting to the exceptional circumstances.