Disabilities And COVID 19: According to the UN, the world’s 1 billion people living with disabilities are among the hardest hit by the coronavirus. The UN has called for them to have equal access to prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the pandemic is revealing the extent to which people are marginalized and is intensifying the inequalities that people with disabilities already face, such as poverty and higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse.
People with disabilities are estimated to be 15 per cent of the world’s population and 46 per cent of the world’s people who are older than 60.
COVID-19 is often more severe in people with existing health problems, increasing their likelihood of dying.
Disabled and elderly who live in care homes and institutions are particularly vulnerable since they may face barriers to health care, good hygiene and social distancing.
In some countries, decisions on rationing health care are based on discriminatory criteria such as age or assumptions about quality or value of life, based on disability.
Equal Rights of People with Disabilities to Access Health Care
The report has outlined actions to protect people with disabilities from contracting the virus and dealing with the impact of lockdowns, physical distancing and isolation.
It called for greater support and political commitment to ensure that people with disabilities have access to essential services, including to immediate health and social protection services, to tide over the crisis.
Disabilities And COVID 19: What are Some of the Key Actions States and other stakeholders Can take?
- Prohibit the denial of treatment on the basis of disability and repeal provisions that prevent access to treatment based on disability, level of support needs, quality of life assessments or any other form of medical bias against persons with disabilities, including within guidelines for allocation of scarce resources (such as ventilators or access to intensive care).
- Ensure priority testing of persons with disabilities presenting symptoms.
- Promote research on the impact of COVID-19 on the health of persons with disabilities.
- Identify and remove barriers to treatment including ensuring accessible environments (hospitals, testing and quarantine facilities), as well as the availability and dissemination of health information and communications in accessible modes, means and formats.
- Ensure the continued supply and access to medicines for persons with disabilities during the pandemic.
- Conduct training and awareness-raising of health workers to prevent discrimination based on prejudice and bias against persons with disabilities.
- Closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in framing a rights-based response to the pandemic that is inclusive of, and responsive to, persons with disabilities in all their diversity.