Letter to European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control - the right to health for persons with disabilities in the ecdcs work on the covid 19 pandemic

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To Andrea Ammon; Director for the European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control

Copy to Commissioner Dalli, Commissioner for Equality; Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety; Emmanuelle Grange, Head of Unit, DG EMPL, Unit C3 for Disability and Inclusion

Dear Director, Dear Andrea Ammon

EDF is an umbrella organisation defending the interests of over 100 million Europeans with disabilities. Run by persons with disabilities and their families, EDF is a strong, united voice of the disability movement in Europe, coordinating advocacy on the rights of all persons with disabilities at the EU level and supporting our members, representative organisations of persons with disabilities at national level and European level.  I write to you today because Europe’s 100 million persons with disabilities are reeling from the impact of COVID 19, on their health and well-being, and on their social and economic inclusion. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is playing, and will continue to play, a pivotal role in combatting COVID 19 in Europe and it is of paramount importance that the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities become part of this approach.

The European Union and all its Member States committed to leaving no one behind, including in the area of public health, when they ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The EU and its agencies and bodies are also bound to ensure the fundamental rights of all persons living in the Union by complying with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Yet, as COVID 19 has devastated Europe, we have seen persons with disabilities facing excessive risks and barriers to healthcare, and public health measures. A number of important rights and obligations under the CRPD and the EU Charter of fundamental rights have been undermined:

  • Accessibility and access to information– public health information at the EU and national level is not accessible to persons with disabilities. The lack of accessibility of public health announcements, which lack of captioning, sign interpretation and easy to understand formats has put the lives of many persons with disabilities at risk.
  • Access to health – We witnessed guidelines that discriminate against persons with disabilities in accessing medical treatment for COVID 19. This is an obvious human rights violation and in conflict with the CRPD and the principle of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (article 21) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (article 19). It is important that access to treatment is not denied on the basis of disability or other characteristics, but also, that populations at risk, such as persons with disabilities and their support networks, have priority access to prevention measures such as personal protective equipment and, ultimately, to vaccinations when they become available.
  • Data collection– the collection of epidemiological data on COVID 19 and its impact, should be disaggregated by risk populations, including disability.
  • Right to independent living– the situation of persons with disabilities in closed institutions, not only undermines their right to independent living, but has also placed them at risk of infection and death.

In the survey your agency has issued on ‘socially and medically vulnerable populations in the EU/EEA and the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic’, EDF is disappointed to see that human rights issues for persons with disabilities are not reflected.  We would therefore like to request a meeting with services in the ECDC which are responsible for equality (such as the ECDC representative to the Commissions Equality Task force, or your focal point for the CRPD), to discuss access to health for people with disabilities. It would also be an opportunity for you and your team to outline what support you would like to see from our organisations to achieve the best results in your work.

We would like to thank you in advance for your time and consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Yannis Vardakastanis


European Disability Forum