Updated statement: Open letter to leaders at the EU and in EU countries: COVID-19 – Disability inclusive response

Updated statement: Open letter to leaders at the EU and in EU countries: COVID-19 – Disability inclusive response

As the situation continues to develop, we at EDF are adding more measures to our open letter to leaders of the EU and EU countries.

The full letter was published on 13 March.

Read the added measures below:

Make public health communication accessible

  • Ensure all information is in plain language and easy to read

Accessible, inclusive, hygienic health services and other facilities

  • Sign language interpreters, personal assistants and all others that support persons with disabilities in emergency and health settings should be given the same health and safety protections as other health care workers dealing with COVID19.
  • Instructions to health care personnel should highlight equal dignity for people with disabilities, that communication should be done directly with the person with disabilities whenever possible. They should include safeguards against disability-based discrimination.  Rapid awareness-raising of key medical personnel is essential to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind or systematically deprioritized in the response to the crisis.
  • EU should provide countries with deficits with personal protection kits to avoid infection. This equipment should be for frontline employees such as healthcare staff, social workers, law enforcement officers, etc.
  • Quarantined persons with disabilities must have access to interpretation and support services, either through externally provided services or through their family and social network. Ideally there should be no disruption to ongoing support agreements (no change in personal assistant, sign interpreter, etc) upon both parties agreement and subject to adoption of all protective  measures

Invest in provision of services and support – European solidarity is needed to ensure strengthening of essential services

  • EU needs to provide additional emergency financial support to help member states at this extremely difficult time for some countries.

Ensure marginalised and isolated people are not left without essential goods, support and human contact

  • Introduce proactive testing and more strict preventive measures for groups of persons with disabilities, who are more susceptible to infection due to the respiratory or other health complications. This measures should extend to their support network.
  • Persons with disabilities should not be institutionalised as a consequence of quarantine procedures beyond the minimum necessary to overcome the stage of their illness, and should be treated on an equal basis with others.
  • Government planners must consider that mobility and business restrictions disproportionately impact persons with reduced mobility and other persons with disabilities and allow for adaptations. Examples of such adaptations can include specific opening hours to persons with disabilities and older persons or priority delivery services.
  • In case of food or hygienic products shortage, immediate measures must be taken to ensure that people with disabilities are not left out and receive essential goods and services as a matter of priority.
  • Any program to provide support to  marginalised groups should be disability-inclusive.
  • All plans to support women should be inclusive of and accessible to women with disabilities and, conversely, programs to support persons with disabilities should include a gender perspective.
  • EU guidelines should ensure that EU countries focus on particularly vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities and their families.

Support networks and assistive devices

  • Providers of support services must have the personal protective equipment and instructions needed to minimise exposure and spread of infection, as well as should be proactively tested for the virus.
  • Crisis and confinement measures will greatly deteriorate mental health and generate fear and anxiety; demonstrating solidarity and community support is important for all.
  • Support agencies providing disability support  in developing continuity plans for situations in which the number of available caregivers may be reduced. This includes reducings bureaucratic recruitment barriers while still maintaining protection measures, such as background checks for caregivers.
  • Authorities should provide a hotline for disability services to communicate with government and raise concerns.

Income protection

  • Authorities need to put in place financial measures (commonly within a broader-based economic stimulus package) to support persons with disabilities, such as lump sum payments for qualifying individuals, tax relief, subsidization of items and/or leniency and allowable deferral of common expenses.
  • Remote work or education services must be equally accessible for employees/students with disabilities. Authorities, organisations and educational institutions should ensure sign interpretation, live captioning, adapted work and any other measures in close consultation with employees and students with disabilities.
  • Many persons with disabilities with underlying health conditions may need to stay at home for longer periods than average/ Organisations and educational institutions must ensure that the remote systems will be kept in place to ensure persons with disabilities can still work and study.

Ensuring that public health communication messages are respectful and non-discriminatory

  • Use images that are inclusive and do not stigmatise people.

Ensure non-nationals are protected

  • The EU should guarantee Member states pay due attention, without discrimination of any kind, to every person regardless of their nationality.