Day of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during Pandemic
June 14 is the Day of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Georgia. Since 2003, persons with disabilities and their organizations have been calling on the State to fulfill its obligation of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and to create appropriate conditions for the full realization of the potential of persons with disabilities.
The celebration of the Day of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is different this year due to the pandemic.
Persons with disabilities were recognized internationally as one of the most vulnerable groups as soon as the novel coronavirus pandemic was announced. According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, persons with disabilities face a greater risk of violence and neglect and the COVID-19 crisis has the most serious impact on them given that they are more likely to live in poverty.
Amid the restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus (COVID 19) in Georgia, persons with disabilities face additional barriers due to the gaps in access to physical environment, services and information, difficult social conditions, suspended rehabilitation programmes and limited access to health care services. Quarantine and isolation have a negative impact on individuals with different types of needs.
The Public Defender of Georgia oversees the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of the pandemic and considers that insufficient measures have been taken to address the interests of persons with disabilities during the crisis. The Public Defender once again draws attention to the need of taking into account the needs of persons with disabilities left beyond the assistance provided by the state anti-crisis plan. Targeted support tailored to the individual needs of persons with disabilities is problematic at the local municipal level as well.
The proper involvement of students with disabilities and students with special needs in the inclusive education process is a challenge. In addition to the difficult social background and problems with access to communication technologies and Internet, availability of remote educational process in a format accessible for students with disabilities and mobilization of adequate and effective human resources for this purpose are problematic. Access to education is a particular challenge for children with behavioral difficulties and sensory impairments.
It should be noted that the remote delivery of modified rehabilitation services is in some cases ineffective and fails to adequately protect the interests of individuals with certain categories of disabilities. As a result, part of the beneficiaries have been left beyond the necessary services for months.
In view of the above, the Public Defender calls on the relevant state agencies to promote the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities during the pandemic by doing the following:
- in coordination with persons with disabilities and organizations working on their rights, develop a complex vision and strategic document on how to address the needs of persons with disabilities during and in the aftermath of the pandemic
- constantly provide information to persons with disabilities in a form accessible to them
- consider persons with disabilities a target group in municipal programmes and activities
- ensure that the rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities are adapted so that to ensure the continuity of vital services in a form that is acceptable and necessary to the beneficiaries (remotely or face-to-face), as well as the effective prevention of the virus
- ensure continuous and effective control of preventive measures in 24-hour care facilities for persons with disabilities
- effectively monitor the implementation of protocols of treatment of people with mental health problems in inpatient and outpatient services
- take necessary steps to mobilize appropriate material and human resources to ensure that students with disabilities are fully involved in the remote learning process and to ensure access to teleschool lessons for the deaf students and students with hearing impairments who cannot use sign language.