Targeted measures are needed to address the disproportionate risks faced by persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the UN Human Rights Office to publish a guidance note for States and other stakeholders on COVID-19 and the human rights of persons with disabilities.

“People with disabilities not only face greater risks from COVID-19, they also are disproportionately affected by response measures, including lockdowns. To address this double risk, we need to be engaging persons with disabilities in the COVID-19 response, and adapting plans to address their needs,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

“People with disabilities are in danger in their own homes, where access to day-to-day support and services may be limited due to lockdowns, and some may suffer greatly from being isolated or confined. These are not unsolvable problems, but they do require specific steps to be taken or exceptions to be made to prevent further harm being done.

“Persons with disabilities face even greater threats in institutions, as care facilities have recorded high fatality rates from COVID-19 and horrific reports have emerged of neglect during the pandemic. Now is the time to support community-based arrangements, wherever possible.”

Making information about COVID-19 available in accessible formats for persons with disabilities is vital, as is ensuring accessibility of online education, Bachelet added.

The High Commissioner also expressed concerns about discrimination and stigma against persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have been deeply disturbed by reports that the lives of persons with disabilities may somehow be given different weight than others during this pandemic,” she said. “Medical decisions need to be based on individualized clinical assessments and medical need, and not on age or other characteristics such as disability.”

The guidance published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights identifies major concerns and sets out key actions in the context of the pandemic.

The guidance aims to bring awareness of the pandemic’s impact on people with disabilities and their rights; draw attention to some promising practices already being undertaken around the world; identify key actions for States and other stakeholders; and provide resources for further learning about ensuring rights based COVID-19 responses inclusive of persons with disabilities.

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, the UN Human Rights Office is issuing a range of media products and succinct guidance on the many human rights dimensions of the pandemic. These can be found on our dedicated COVID-19 webpage (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/COVID-19.aspx).

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