Disability Rights During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Launch of the COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor

Evidence is emerging that persons with disabilities are being disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus pandemic and emergency measures being taken by governments worldwide. As governments rush to respond to the virus, it is more critical than ever to guarantee that measures taken are fully inclusive of persons with disabilities and prevent human rights violations from taking place.

With the endorsements of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Mr Dainius Pūras, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Ms Catalina Devandas Aguilar, a coalition of six disability rights organisations is today launching a major international monitoring initiative entitled “COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor” to conduct rapid independent monitoring of state measures concerning persons with disabilities. The first element of this global initiative is the launch of two surveys requesting official information from governments and requesting the testimonies of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations. The surveys aim to collect information about what states are doing to protect core rights of persons with disabilities including the rights to life, access to health and essential services.

Beyond this, the initiative seeks to highlight the particular issues faced by persons with disabilities in situations of heightened vulnerability, including those living in institutions and their own homes, children, older persons, those who are homeless and people in rural settings.

A new website has been created to host the surveys at www.covid-drm.org. It will soon contain a dashboard to make the data collected publicly available. Surveys are being made available in fifteen languages initially. It is expected that the information collected will identify common issues facing persons with disabilities worldwide, providing valuable information to inform policy measures at national and global levels, and will highlight promising practices which can strengthen the protection of disability rights during crises.

Endorsing the initiative, Mr Pūras said: “The COVID-19 pandemic and emergency measures taken by States around the world raise many challenges and concerns with regard to persons with disabilities, especially for those in residential care. Measures undertaken to stop the spread of virus may increase risks that the human rights of these people are violated. In such situations, when closed institutions are becoming even more closed, the need for independent monitoring becomes more important than ever before.”

In her endorsement, Ms Devandas Aguilar said: "The COVID-19 pandemic represents a threat to the lives of people with disabilities. COVID-19 is hitting hard in our community, feeding on and deepening the historical and structural discrimination against people with disabilities. Social care institutions, nursing homes and psychiatric facilities, where people with disabilities are often institutionalised or detained against their will, have become hotspots of the pandemic, accounting for half of the fatalities in some countries. Governments across the world must act fast to guarantee that all COVID-19 responses are accessible and disability-inclusive."

The initiative is being implemented by a Coordinating Group comprised of leading disability rights organisations worldwide who will work closely with their networks to build a comprehensive global picture.