Throughout the week of 14th – 18th of June 2021, in the framework of the 14th session of the Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP CRPD), EUD attended several side events hosted by various organisations such as the European Disability Forum (EDF), World Health Organisations (WHO), United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and others. Please find the summaries of the events attended by EUD below:
On the 14th of June 2021, EUD attended the side event hosted by Disabled People’s International and the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information Communication Technologies (G3ICT). During the discussions each panellist highlighted the critical role of the digital accessibility in ensuring that no person with a disability is left behind.
Mr Axel Leblois, President of G3ICT, presented the G3ICT’s DARE Index report of 2020 which revealed the increasing levels of commitment of Sates Parties to UN CRPD to promote digital accessibility. However it was emphasised that only a few State Parties have undertaken concrete actions to effectively implement digital accessibility in practice for persons with disabilities. Mr Leblois stated that the pandemic has dramatically delayed the implementation of the digital inclusion programs and strategies targeting persons with disabilities and created a wider gap which leaves people with disabilities behind.
During this side event, G3ICT alongside its partners launched the following initiatives:
· DARE Academy Scholarship: The purpose of this scholarship is to support individuals representing Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in gaining knowledge and experience in digital accessibility relevant to their advocacy work.
· DARE Academy Webinar Series: The objective of the DARE Academy is to foster an open peer-to-peer sharing of effective policies and practices enriched by a dialogue among stakeholders including representatives of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities, policy makers and the private sector.
· Global Network of Inclusive ICT Champions of Persons with Disabilities: The purpose of this network is to enhance voices and representation of persons with disabilities through G3ICT’s programs and initiatives for promoting the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) when tackling the issues related to the lack of digital accessibility and inclusive ICTs.
Afterwards, David Bainbridge, Executive Director of CBM Global Disability Inclusion presented a recent research conducted by the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities. This study was done in collaboration with several international and national organisations of persons with disabilities including the World Federation of Deaf. The research focused on the impact of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 and the level of accessibility during this period, in three different countries Bolivia, Nigeria and Bangladesh. The research revealed the two main barriers exposed by pandemic: the lack of access to the COVID-19 information for all persons with disabilities and the lack of social protection measures resulting in barriers in areas of employment, health and education.
On the 15th of June 2021, EUD attended an online side-event hosted by Inclusion International and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The two organisations presented new evidence gathered by the World Bank and Inclusion International on the impact of COVID-19 on education for learners with disabilities and shared with innovative solutions adopted to address the challenges posed by remote learning.
Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report at UNESCO presented the findings of the survey that was launched in May 2020. The report highlighted concerns about the increased segregation of students with disabilities when returning to schools. This increased the level of concern regarding the accessibility of education for children with disabilities. For the deaf community, this report included the barriers faced by deaf learners citing that many remote learning options were not accessible in national sign languages. The report also noted the feeling of isolation among deaf students.
EUD highlights the importance of accessibility in national sign languages for deaf learners in all learning environments including the remote ones. The use of sign language from early childhood is essential to ensure the empowerment and equality in education.
You can find the report “Pivoting to Inclusion: Leveraging Lessons from the COVID-19 Crisis for Learners with Disabilities” here.
On the 15th of June 2021, the Permanent Mission of Australia to the UN and the UN Women co-hosted a webinar focusing on the impact of the pandemic on cultural assimilation and protection of indigenous women and girls with disabilities. The International Labour Organisation report on “Indigenous Persons with Disabilities: Access to Training and employment” estimated 1 billion persons with disabilities live across the globe, out of which 54 million are expected to be indigenous peoples.
The event outlined several challenges that the pandemic revealed one of which was that the healthcare is out of reach for many indigenous women and girls with disabilities. Gender-based violence and psychological abuse towards indigenous women and girls with disabilities increased in several countries. Another one of the key challenges was the lack of access to participation as indigenous girls and women with disabilities were not included when designing public policies during the pandemic.
The panellists featured presenters from all over the world, from Nepal, Kenya to Australia, all advocating for meaningful access to healthcare. One of the panellists, Ms Denise Taya, a deaf member of Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network (IPWDGN), presented her experience of her pregnancy during the pandemic. Ms Taya highlighted the lack of access to sign language in the hospital which prevented her from communicating during her labour as well as the lack of access to education and primary healthcare for her community due to the lack of action from the government.
On the 16th of June 2021 in the framework on the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Permanent Mission of Austria to the UN , World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and Light for the World organised the side event which focused on how to ensure a better representation of deaf persons on the Committee of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The event was opened with the poem written by Her Abilities Award Winner, educational leader and author Ms Bernice Adekeye Oyeleke. The poem titled “Excluded Among the Excluded” was signed in Nigerian Sign Language; see here for the video. The poem outlined the experiences of exclusion, as well as presented her vision of an inclusive society.
During the event the panellists highlighted that the lack of representation does not reflect the diversity of people with disabilities and inclusiveness we want to achieve. Dr Joseph Murray, President of WFD presented the advocacy work of WFD to ensure that deaf persons’ human rights were recognised. Furthermore, Mr Murray outlined the intersectionality of language rights and disability rights.
This event was important for National Associations for the Deaf as we need to ensure that there’s an interconnection between the governments of the State Parties to CRPD and deaf communities. The governments who are signatories to CRPD must nominate a signing deaf person for the CRPD Committee to ensure that the deaf perspective is included in all discussion. We need the practical implementation of the principle of nothing about us without us.
On the 17th of June 2021, EUD attended a webinar hosted by the European Union, with co-sponsors Austria and the European Disability Forum. This side event focused on the exchange of views on the development of disability strategies as a tools for the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Prof Gerard Quinn, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, moderated the event.
Lucy Diwan, Acting Head of the Unit on Disability and Inclusion at the European Commission presented the new European Disability Rights Strategy 2021 – 2030 that was launched in March earlier this year. The strategy covers many areas and aims at ensuing full protection of rights of persons with disabilities such as accessibility, equality and non-discrimination.
Gopal Mitra, Senior Social Affairs Officer, Disability Team at the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, presented the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy launched in June 2019 that covers the three pillars of the UN’s work: development, human rights and peace and security.
Remarks were made by the European Disability Forum’s President Ioannis Vardkastanis, who celebrated the upcoming establishment of the Disability Platform by the European Commission. This new initiative will replace the existing High-Level Group on Disability and support the implementation of the European Disability Rights Strategy as well as national disability strategies.
Andreas Reinalter, Head of Unit, Disability Rights, at the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection of Austria presented their national disability strategy. Mr Reinalter presented a variety of national level legislation that aims at ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities in areas of education, health care and other. Mr Reinalt also outlined Austria’s efforts to implement of the European Accessibility Act.
During the event the important role of the disability strategies when implementing the UN CRPD was emphasised. EUD celebrates the recent publication of the European Disability Rights Strategy and is looking forward to engaging with all relevant partners when implementing it in the EU.
On Friday, the 18th of June 2021, EUD attended the webinar organised by the World Health Organisation and the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations. The webinar focused on “building back better” from COVID-19 as well as on the response and recovery plans that require disability inclusion.
The organisers presented the perspectives of persons with disabilities worldwide, and presented the existing physical barriers that prevent access to health facilities, barriers when accessing information, and attitudinal barriers that give rise to discrimination. The perspective of the deaf community was included outlining that many barriers exist when communicating with healthcare professionals.
The discussion reflected the lack of communication from national governments related to the pandemic and vaccination of persons with disabilities. The IDA stressed the need for better harmonisation between social affairs and health ministries as each ministry is responsible for including persons with disabilities in their respective agendas.