The report sets out the outcomes of a rapid human rights-based global monitoring initiative – the COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor (COVID-DRM) – sponsored by a consortium of seven leading disability rights organisations, which took place between 20 April and 8 August this year. Through centring the testimonies of 2,152 respondents from 134 countries, predominantly from persons with disabilities themselves, the report draws the worrying conclusion that states have overwhelmingly failed to take sufficient measures to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in their responses to the pandemic.
Perhaps most troubling of all, it highlights that some states have actively pursued policies which result in wide-scale violations of the rights to life and health of persons with disabilities, as well as impacting on a wide range of other rights including the rights to liberty; freedom from torture, ill-treatment, exploitation, violence and abuse; the rights to independent living and inclusion in the community, and to inclusive education, among others. Such practices give rise to specific instances of discrimination on the basis of disability, and must be directly challenged and prevented.
Notably, these issues are not confined to developing countries alone. While the pandemic has strained public authorities in virtually every country, one significant finding of this study is that persons with disabilities report being left behind in countries regardless of their level of development, across both wealthy and developing states. In many cases, the disproportionate impact of the virus and state responses could have been predictable – and steps should have been taken to mitigate some of the worst effects. In some cases, the failure to act has had fatal consequences. In other cases, states have taken actions which cause further harm to persons with disabilities such as through denying access to basic and emergency health care, imposing dangerous lockdowns on overcrowded institutions, and through heavy-handed enforcement of public security measures.