Promoting an Inclusive World: Disability-Inclusive Response to, and Recovery from, COVID-19 and Future Pandemics

22 september 2020

Presented by the Dόchas Disability in International Development Working Group (DIDWG)


Persons with disabilities (PWD) make up 15% of world’s population, the largest minority of the world, 80% of whom are living in developing world. Despite several national and international initiatives, the issues of PWD are frequently forgotten and ignored.

In light of the current pandemic and its disproportionate impact on PWD, the Dόchas Disability in International Development Working Group (DIDWG) recommends the following measures to ensure the core human rights and humanitarian principles are upheld for ALL, including PWD, and that the commitment for ‘leaving no one behind’ and ‘farthest behind first’ is reaffirmed throughout the actions of the Irish government, their partners and allies in international development.

1. Health & Wellbeing

All human lives have equal value. Violation of this fundamental principle would risk the violation of human rights. Countries should adhere to the UN Convention on the Rights of PWD (especially Article 11: situations of risk and humanitarian emergency ) and the UN Policy Brief on inclusive COVID-19 . Medical guidelines and treatments must be non-discriminatory. Countries should not promote selection criteria based on disability, age, gender and other affiliations and status.

2. Inclusive & Empowering Healthcare

Healthcare must be free of financial barriers, non-discriminatory and respectful to PWD. Equal access must be given to life-saving medical services and medical interventions . Long-term measures should also be taken to promote a stronger and inclusive healthcare system, which is welcoming, tolerant and understands diverse healthcare needs. 

3. Women and Girls with Disabilities

Governments, their partners and allies must report and address the barriers faced by women and girls and LGBTQI’s with disabilities, in accessing support and aid, in the context of domestic and sexual violence and abuse. They must also consult with, involve and support women and girls with disabilities at all stages of responses and in all decision-making processes.

4. Participation

An inclusive and human rights-based approach must be taken in the planning, design and implementation of COVID-19 response and recovery. The requires active participation of PWD and their organisations (DPOs) in COVID-19 response and long-term recovery.

5. Livelihoods

Guidelines should be in place to protect the income and staff of businesses run by PWD during and after COVID-19. These guidelines should also consider the provision of public services such as education, rehabilitation, care and crèches that face closure affecting the lives and livelihoods of PWD and their families. 

6. Education

Inclusive education is being affected by the pandemic. Action is needed to ensure all children are included in distance and alternative learning arranged  and that alternative learning methods also reach out-of-school children. The reopening of schools must provide for the attendance of children with disabilities. Post-crisis, interventions that promote greater inclusion should be continued.

7. Communication

Information on health, public health and emergencies must be accessible i.e. in plain language, available in digital and sign languages, free of bias, gender-just, does not promote stigma, non-discriminatory and respectful of the diversity and equal worth of PWD.

8. Disruption of Assistance, Supports and Networks

Programmes and services that support PWD must continue, providing funding and practical solutions so that PWD are not negatively affected by the disruption to their support networks.

9. Protect, Safeguard

Human rights violations will continue if the governments do not respond. Ireland should send clear and unequivocal messages to its partners, stakeholders and allies in this respect. PWD must not be institutionalised, the poorest must not be excluded. Any restrictions should be in compliance with CRPD. Protective equipment (such as masks) should consider specific disability needs.

We can build back better if we all work together to include and respect the opinions, needs and rights of PWD. As the ILO brief maintains, “It is an opportunity to reinforce the rights of PWD and enhance their inclusion in social and economic life… A more inclusive future of work is possible for all.”

Useful Resources:

• “Disability-inclusive response to COVID-19 – Towards a better future for all” A response to the Secretary-General’s Policy Brief
• Disability considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak
• Disability Inclusive Social Protection Response to the COVID-19 Crisis, ILO, 2020
• Easy-to-read information about COVID-19, Available in many languages, Inclusion Europe
• GLAD Network Statement on PWD in the COVID-19 outbreak and response
• COVID-19 response: Considerations for Children and Adults with Disabilities, Unicef
• COVID-19 Ethics Guidance, AMA
• COVID-19 and Disability Inclusion, IDDC
• COVID19 Resource: Key advocacy messages, questions to ask on inclusion, CBM Global
• COVID-19 The Impact on Girls, Plan International
• Equality Programming in Covid-19 Response, Concern Worldwide