Joint Statement on the Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19 – Towards a Better Future for All

New York, New York
May 18, 2020

Joint Statement on the Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19 – Towards a Better Future for All
A Response to the Secretary-General’s Policy Brief
A Statement by 138 Member States and Observers

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a human crisis of unprecedented scale, seriously affecting health and disrupting the livelihood and overall wellbeing of people all over the world. It impacts human rights and exacerbates inequalities already in existence. Persons with disabilities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and we need to ensure that they are not left behind and discriminated against in the course of the COVID-19 response and recovery.

Many persons with disabilities are at higher risk of contracting the virus and developing severe complications or increased mortality for many reasons, including in some cases, pre-existing health conditions, or living in institutional settings.

Persons with disabilities have experienced greater attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers and discrimination, exclusion from accessing health-care services and information, as well as faced serious disruption to their employment, education, and access to social protection and other support services. These may be exacerbated by multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by women, children and older persons with disabilities and persons with disabilities in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies.

In this regard, we welcome the release of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on “A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19”as well as other UN relevant guidance by the WHO or OHCHR. We also acknowledge the initiatives by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility as well as by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Disability-inclusive local, national and global responses require cooperation, investment and direct support from all stakeholders, including governments, the UN System, humanitarian actors, civil society, and representative organizations of persons with disabilities, as well as the private sector.

COVID-19 response and recovery should be disability-inclusive, protect the rights and needs of persons with disabilities and place them at the centre of all our efforts, as envisaged in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It is fundamental to ensure the inclusion and access of persons with disabilities to health services, on an equal basis with others, including medicines, vaccines and medical equipment, as well as to social protection services and other support systems, including for independent living, such as personal assistance, sign language and tactile interpretation, and psychosocial support. Efforts should also aim at providing continued employment, education, as well as prevention from and response to violence. These actions should be provided during the immediate health and emergency responses, as well as development and recovery efforts in the longer term.

We highlight the importance of ensuring critical information throughout the response and recovery phases that is available in accessible formats, including accessible digital technology, sign language and captioning, relay services, text messages, easy-to-read and plain language.

Meaningful consultation and active participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all stages of the COVID-19 response and recovery is critical. Representative organizations can raise awareness of and advocate for the needs of persons with disabilities, and contribute to planning and implementation for building equal, inclusive, sustainable and resilient communities. This requires both mainstream and specific disability-inclusive policy making in our social-economic response to improve outcomes for persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, and empower them in all aspects of life. Monitoring the impact of measures taken and collecting disability disaggregated data are also key in this regard.

A disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery will better serve everyone and prevent the gains made in the inclusion and rights of persons with disabilities from being lost. It will provide persons with disabilities with accessible and agile systems capable of responding to the pandemic. As every crisis can also become an opportunity, let us pave the way for a better future for all, where no one is left behind.

1. Albania
2. Andorra
3. Angola
4. Antigua and Barbuda
5. Argentina
6. Armenia
7. Australia
8. Austria
9. Azerbaijan
10. Barbados
11. Belgium
12. Belize
13. Bolivia
14. Bosnia and Herzegovina
15. Brazil
16. Bulgaria
17. Burkina Faso
18. Burundi
19. Cabo Verde
20. Cambodia
21. Canada
22. Chile
23. China
24. Colombia
25. Costa Rica
26. Côte d’Ivoire
27. Croatia
28. Cyprus
29. Czech Republic
30. Denmark
31. Djibouti
32. Dominica
33. Dominican Republic
34. Ecuador
35. El Salvador
36. Equatorial Guinea
37. Estonia
38. Fiji
39. Finland
40. France
41. Gambia
42. Georgia
43. Germany
44. Ghana
45. Greece
46. Grenada
47. Guatemala
48. Guinea
49. Guyana
50. Haiti
51. Honduras
52. Hungary
53. Iceland
54. India
55. Ireland
56. Israel
57. Italy
58. Jamaica
59. Japan
60. Jordan
61. Kazakhstan
62. Kenya
63. Latvia
64. Lebanon
65. Liberia
66. Liechtenstein
67. Lithuania
68. Luxembourg
69. Madagascar
70. Malawi
71. Malta
72. Marshall Islands
73. Mexico
74. Monaco
75. Mongolia
76. Montenegro
77. Morocco
78. Mozambique
79. Myanmar
80. Namibia
81. Nauru
82. Nepal
83. Netherlands
84. New Zealand
85. Niger
86. Nigeria
87. North
88. Norway
89. Oman
90. Pakistan
91. Palau
92. Panama
93. Paraguay
94. Peru
95. Philippines
96. Poland
97. Portugal
98. Qatar
99. Republic of Korea
100. Republic of Moldova
101. Romania
102. Rwanda
103. Saint Kitts and Nevis
104. Saint Lucia
105. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
106. Samoa
107. San Marino
108. Serbia
109. Seychelles
110. Sierra Leone
111. Singapore
112. Slovakia
113. Slovenia
114. South Africa
115. South Sudan
116. Spain
117. Sri Lanka
118. Suriname
119. Sweden
120. Switzerland
121. Thailand
122. Tonga
123. Trinidad and Tobago
124. Tunisia
125. Turkey
126. Turkmenistan
127. Uganda
128. Ukraine
129. United Kingdom
130. United Republic of Tanzania
131. United States
132. Uruguay
133. Venezuela
134. Vietnam
135. Zimbabwe
136. European Union
137. State of Palestine