This United Nations policy brief addresses the impact of COVID-19 on pre-existing inequalities and the need for inclusion of persons with disabilities. The brief emphasizes the need to ensure that persons with disabilities are fully included in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
Four overarching areas of action are discussed:
- Mainstreaming of disability in response and recovery together with targeted actions
- Accessibility of information, facilities, services and programs in response and recovery
- Meaningful consultation with and active participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all stages of response and recovery
- Accountability mechanisms to ensure disability inclusion in response.
Persons with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to preexisting barriers and inequalities, including likelihood of institutionalization, this diverse population is at greater risk of infection, more severe complications, and discrimination in accessing needed services. A disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery effort requires a focus on non-discrimination, intersectionality, accessibility, participation, accountability, and data disaggregation.
Among other recommendations, the brief notes the importance of ensuring non-discrimination in the allocation of scarce medical resources by applying ethical principles that prioritize treatment for persons in situations of particular vulnerability. Persons with disabilities are at risk of discrimination in accessing healthcare and life-saving procedures in the event of rationing of scarce resources when prioritization is based on discriminatory criteria such as assumptions about quality of life due to disability, rather than more appropriate factors related to individual prognosis. Persons with disabilities may also be harmed if access to other forms of necessary healthcare, rehabilitation, and assistive technologies are curtailed due to increased pressure on healthcare systems.