Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign has launched a petition calling for the United Nations and its member countries to make sure the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic is inclusive of people with disabilities.
The Equal World COVID-19 petition was launched in response to reports from around the world of the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on people with disabilities. The pandemic has increased the existing discrimination and inequality faced by people with disabilities, many of whom already experience barriers in trying to claim their rights to education, work, health care and participation in society.
A lack of information in accessible formats like sign language and closed captioning means that many people are left unaware of vital public health advice or information on government curfews. For some, lockdowns and social distancing have created problems as carers are less able to visit, leaving many people struggling with their personal care requirements. People with disabilities living in institutions face an increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus, and online learning measures to meet the gap left by school closures are often not accessible for students with disabilities.
Tessa Murphy, Sightsavers’ campaign manager, said: “The needs of people with disabilities must be prioritised in national responses to the pandemic. People with disabilities already often exist on the periphery of their communities, their full inclusion into society hindered by a variety of barriers and widespread discrimination.
“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be devastating, if the specific needs of people with disabilities are not met by national governments. We are calling upon the global community to stand up for the rights of people with disabilities and urge the world’s leaders to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are not neglected in the face of the huge challenges of responding to the pandemic.”
Sightsavers is also part of the inclusion campaign
led by the International Disability Alliance and the International Disability and Development Consortium, which is highlighting the experiences of people with disabilities and has seen progress towards vital information being more widely available in accessible formats.