Protecting the rights of disabled people across the Commonwealth

03 December 2020

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is marked on 3 December each year to promote disabled people’s full and equal inclusion in society and development.

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) work to protect and progress people’s rights in line with national and international human rights standards. NHRIs across the Commonwealth are examining the impact of the pandemic and emergency legislation on disabled people and their rights. By identifying areas where protections have been eroded, and by providing recommendations for action, NHRIs can support governments, employers and civil society to put people at the heart of decision-making, and secure disabled people’s rights and participation in all aspects of life.

Below are some examples work that Commonwealth NHRIs have undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) published guidance for Australian health professionals on respecting and upholding the rights of disabled people in health and care settings during the pandemic. AHRC’s guidance provides practical examples of applying human rights in health settings and highlights the positive influence this has on disabled people’s health outcomes. Read the guidance.
  • The Canadian Human Rights Commission surveyed 2,927 people about Canada’s performance in protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights. The survey uncovered that poverty, housing, and work and employment were the top three areas of concern for disabled people, where they are not receiving enough support. See the results of the survey.
  • The Ombudsman also published a report highlighting the Cyprus Ministry of Education’s discriminatory policy that prevented disabled children returning to school with their peers during the pandemic. Read the report.
  • The GB Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published guidance on retailers’ legal responsibility to disabled customers. It stressed that while retailers must adapt how they deliver their services during the pandemic, they must still fulfill their legal obligation to not discriminate, and consider the needs of against disabled customers. Read the guidance.
  • The EHRC also published research highlighting that public transport services in Wales are failing to meet the needs of disabled passengers. Read the report.
  • The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights issued a briefing to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) on how they are monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on human rights. Their briefing highlighted the lack of access to timely and reliable information on COVID-19 and other health issues. Their next monitoring report will focus on the impact on the rights of vulnerable groups, including disabled people.
  • The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission worked jointly with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to submit evidence to an inquiry on the unequal impact of COVID-19 on disabled people’s access to services. They are also in the final stages of establishing a Disability Forum to ensure that input from disabled people and their representatives is embedded in their joint work on monitoring and implementing the UNCRPD.
  • The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) published research showing that a large number of people using in-home social care support have had either a reduction or complete withdrawal of support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research report makes recommendations calling on public bodies to commit to the return of care packages and support at pre-pandemic levels. Read the report.

The CFNHRI is using these examples and others to produce a report on how NHRIs have addressed the rights of disabled people throughout the pandemic. For more information about this project, or to share your institution’s work in this area, send us an email.

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