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Policy Brief: A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19

The global crisis of COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is imperative. People with disabilities—one billion people— are one of the most excluded groups in our society and are among the hardest hit in this crisis in terms of fatalities. Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access health care, education, employment and to participate in the community. They are more likely to live in poverty, experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse, and are among the most marginalized in any crisis-affected community. COVID-19 has further compounded this situation, disproportionately impacting persons with disabilities both directly and indirectly.

This Policy Brief highlights the impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities and in doing so, outlines key actions and recommendations to make the response and recovery inclusive of persons with disabilities. While the brief contains specific recommendations focusing on key sectors, it identifies four overarching areas of action that are applicable for all.

1. Ensure mainstreaming of disability in all COVID-19 response and recovery together with targeted actions. A combination of mainstream and disability-specific measures are necessary to ensure systematic inclusion of persons with disabilities.

2. Ensure accessibility of information, facilities, services and programmes in the COVID-19 response and recovery. Accessibility is fundamental to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the immediate health and socio-economic response to COVID-19. 

3. Ensure meaningful consultation with and active participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all stages of the COVID-19 response and recovery. Persons with disabilities have important contributions to make in tackling the crisis and building the future. Many persons with disabilities have experience of thriving in situations of isolation and alternate working arrangements that can offer models for navigating the current situation. Perspectives and lived experiences of disability contribute to creativity, new approaches and innovative solutions to challenges.

4. Establish accountability mechanisms to ensure disability inclusion in the COVID-19 response. Ensure inclusive investments to support disability-inclusive outcomes. Governments, donors, UN agencies and other actors need to establish mechanisms to monitor investments to ensure it is reaching persons with disabilities. Disaggregating data by disability is key to ensure accountability

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