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A year with covid-19: the already marginalized are hardest hit

The global crisis triggered by the pandemic reinforces existing injustices and sheds light on the extensive exclusion that affects people with disabilities. The virus and the pandemic hit people with disabilities harder, both directly and indirectly.

People with disabilities are at higher risk of developing covid-19. This is partly due to the fact that many do not have access to basic services in the form of clean water and sanitary facilities or that they are located in institutions, care initiatives and group housing that are often overcrowded. Many also have diseases that mean that a covid infection can become particularly serious for them.

A myriad of obstacles meet people with disabilities in the wake of covid-19. A major problem is the lack of information. Many groups completely lack information about the virus, the spread of infection, protective measures, testing, healthcare and vaccines. From MyRight's operating countries, there are many testimonies about how the official information has very rarely been available to the deaf, people with visual impairments or intellectual disabilities.

Other common obstacles are lack of protection mechanisms and job security as well as lack of accessibility related to distance education and homework.

Lack of care, lost jobs and closed schools

People with disabilities are often exposed to discrimination in health care and are at increased risk of not receiving the care they need or access to life-saving measures. It is three times as common for people with disabilities not to have access to care when needed, compared with others. In several countries, more than half of people with disabilities do not have access to care when needed.

The situation has worsened in connection with the pandemic. Not only are people with disabilities discriminated against in covid-19-related care, but planned operations and other care related to disabilities have been postponed or completely absent when care has been re-prioritized.

People living with disabilities belong to the groups hardest hit by the consequences of the pandemic. In a survey of how the corona crisis has affected the situation of children, parents and guardians, half of all guardians with disabilities state that they lost their jobs during the crisis and 85 percent of them say that they lost more than half of their income (The Hidden Impact of Covid-19 on Children, Save the Children 2020).

The pandemic has left many children in the world without school meals, health care, education and other community services. Before the pandemic, 1 in 3 children with disabilities did not have the opportunity to go to primary school and up to 9 in 10 children with disabilities did not have access to higher education. Children with disabilities who go to school have been hit particularly hard by the closure of schools. Lack of support, functioning internet connections and available school materials hit hard and the distance education introduced in many countries does not work for everyone. For example, distance education is carried out in many places via radio, which then excludes the deaf and many with hearing impairment.

Possibility

If the pandemic is met with initiatives that include people with disabilities, it can lead to more inclusive and accessible societies.

People with disabilities have often come second in countries' crisis management and will be hit very hard by the long-term consequences of the covid pandemic, both health-wise and socially and economically. An important lesson from previous crises is the importance of collecting information and statistics about people with disabilities in connection with the pandemic. The reopening phase provides unique opportunities to design and inclusive and accessible communities in consultation with people with disabilities. When countries reopen societies and economies, the removal of old and new disabilities is crucial to achieving the global sustainability goals set by the UN.


Read more about how people with disabilities can be included in development assistance and global development cooperation in MyRight's guide “8 steps for change”. You can read the guide here.

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