Civil society groups submit report on COVID impacts to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities

Publish Date: 
Friday, June 10, 2022

In April 2022, the Disability Rights Initiative of the Human Rights Law Network, the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, the Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia, and l’Association pour la Réintégration Sociale des Aveugles et Malvoyants du Burundi submitted a report to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities documenting a series of violations connected with the COVID-19 pandemic. The report, which was coordinated by the Disability Rights Initiative of HRLN and ESCR-Net, requests the Rapporteur provide further responsive technical guidance and calls for redress to UN member States.

The research was informed by written and online exchanges since mid-2021 with organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) in Argentina, Bangladesh, Burundi, Colombia, Dominica, Ecuador, Haiti, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Complementary research was done in turn to provide further references for the kinds of human rights issues raised by OPDs.

The submission  addresses four areas of concern:

  1. inadequate efforts to prioritize access and ensure accessibility during vaccine rollouts for persons with disabilities who may face greater risks of severe COVID outcomes;
  2. failures to adequately support persons with disabilities who may disproportionately face severe indirect pandemic harms, including those related to lockdowns and other socio-economic impacts, such as those related to loss of livelihood, housing insecurity, and inaccessible social protection measures;
  3. inaccessibility of certain public services due to pandemic-related circumstances, such as online/remote education methods or public health information provision; and
  4. absence of disaggregated data necessary to precisely map impacts of the pandemic on persons with disabilities and inform policies that adequately meet human rights obligations.

The submission notes the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated pre-existing issues of structural discrimination persons with disabilities face across the globe. As previously stated by the Rapporteur,[1] many responses to the public health crisis have undermined the human rights-centering paradigm on disability. Two years into the pandemic, the report seeks to contribute toward accountability, redress, prevention, and non-repetition of violations concerning rights to persons with disabilities in the current and future public health crises.

[1] Quinn, Gerard, COVID-19 and Disability: A War of Two Paradigms, in COVID-19 and Human Rights (Eds. Kjaerum, Davis, and Lyons), 2021.