EUD attended a webinar series from 24th to 30th June 2021, organised by Equinet, the European organisation which promotes equality in Europe by supporting and enabling the work of national equality bodies across the EU Member States. The purpose of each webinar was to give key healthcare actors and equality bodies space to share their concerns and find ways to collaborate and overcome obstacles to secure equal access to healthcare.
The webinar held on 24th of June, which was entitled ‘COVID-19: The pandemic that changed it all’, focused on how the crisis has impacted healthcare services. The presenters on the panel discussed discrimination based on age, disability, race or ethnic origin, and how inaccessible healthcare introduced additional barriers to many people. Steven Allen, Co-executive Director of the Validity Foundation, presented the outcomes of project “COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor” which is a rapid international monitoring initiative launched in April in 2020. The purpose of the project was to gain real time picture of the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities across Europe. The information gathered through this project highlighted that some people experienced institutional lockdowns which left persons with disabilities without care and also that persons with disabilities did not have full access to essential services. All presenters agreed that the pandemic revealed that governments should play a more active role when protecting human rights.
The webinar on 28th June was called ‘Healthcare services and systemic equality: Unpacking challenges.’ The session provided observations of how structural and systemic forms of discrimination have been intensified. Marine Uldry, Human Rights Officer at the European Disability Forum, highlighted the stigma and lack of understanding of disability and the rights of persons with disabilities in general. Ms Uldry explored examples of where doctors had failed to present information to patients in accessible ways, e.g. failing to provide deaf patients with sign language interpretation.
The final webinar took place on 30th of June and looked at how to employ good practices and work together towards an unbiased healthcare service provision. The presenters discussed case studies from Malta, Serbia, Hungary and Belgium. Solange Bonello, Manager of the unit on research and the UNCRPD at Malta’s Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities presented the disability equality training healthcare professionals were given. The training consisted of introducing of what disability is (which included debunking disability myths) and followed by explaining what the systematic inequalities in the design and delivery of healthcare services are.
The Equinet webinar series provided illuminating perspectives on access to healthcare, equality, human rights and disability rights. It was interesting for the EUD to observe the good practices that can create an egalitarian healthcare system for all, including deaf individuals.