Dear Mr Vardakastanis,
I refer to your letter of 23 April, which raises important questions about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and of measures taken to address it. I fully share your concern that people with disabilities are particularly at risk in the current crisis and I agree that they should not be left behind on any account.
As you know, the Agency is firmly committed to involving people with disabilities and their representative organisations in a meaningful way in its work. Building on our excellent working relationship, I welcome an exchange with the European Disability Forum on the particular topic of the COVID-19 crisis. My staff has already contacted their counterparts at the Forum to set up a videoconference with the responsible colleagues on this matter.
This, amongst other issues, will be an opportunity to discuss the activities our organisations conduct with their partners in the EU CRPD Monitoring Framework. All four members of the Framework will take part in the upcoming meeting of the working group on the CRPD of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions. We will be proposing that this meeting would include an agenda point on the impact of the pandemic on people with disabilities.
With the regular bulletins on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Agency intends to provide the EU and its Member States with a holistic view of its impact on fundamental rights. The bulletins will consider the evolution of policy responses taken across the EU to contain the spread of the virus, and provide an overview of their impact on different population groups, including people with disabilities. In this context, I note that the Agency has requested its research network (FRANET) to take into account the specificities of the situation of people with disabilities when collecting the data that will form the basis of these regular bulletins, with the next one upcoming on 26 May 2020.
In the meantime, the Agency will continue to draw attention to the challenges that people with disabilities face because of the COVID-19 pandemic through its social media channels. This includes highlighting the essential support that members of the European Disability Forum provide to people with disabilities and their relatives in these extremely challenging times. I take the opportunity to thank the Forum for having pointed us to some of those initiatives.
Director | European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights