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Transforming Society

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Restoring Dignity

MEDIA STATEMENT: SAHRC calls on Government to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in decisions and interventions related to COVID-19

Attention: Editors and Reporters

24 April 2020

The South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission or the SAHRC) emphasises the importance of inclusive decision making platforms, at all levels, for any interventions in the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, in response to COVID-19.

Persons with disabilities remain one of the most vulnerable groups in the country and thereby require a targeted inclusive approach to services being rendered during the lockdown. Persons with disabilities face a higher risk of harm from the social and economic shocks linked to measures to curb the pandemic, as a large majority are unemployed and lack adequate social protection. Women and girls with disabilities are also particularly at risk of being subjected to domestic and sexual violence.

There are significant reasonable accommodations that should be put in place in order to cater to the needs of persons with disabilities that are equally essential. In response to COVID itself, uninterrupted access to a full range of health care and support services including sexual and reproductive health services is vital. Government must ensure access to support services, emergency measures and legal assistance is provided and readily available.

The SAHRC notes that education and learning has been moved to online platforms during this time. It is vital that the respective education departments pursue inclusive practises in order to make sure that children with disabilities are not marginalised during this time as this could have an adverse impact on the right to education. Linked to this, it is also important to bear in mind that there are persons with disabilities who require specialised care on an ongoing basis. As one example, some parents send their children with disabilities to boarding schools due to the fact that they are unable to provide a safe environment for their children and are unable to adequately cater to the needs of the child for one reason or another.  It is vital that provision is made for the necessary care to continue to be provided including during the lockdown period.

Additionally, there are persons with disabilities that are unable to access essential goods, because of a lack of accessible transport during this time. It is vital that provision be made in terms of accessible transport for persons with disabilities.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities aims to ensure that persons with disabilities can live independently with equal access to opportunities. It is in this spirit, that the SAHRC urges government to place inclusivity at the centre of its initiatives during the COVID 19 lockdown, and beyond in order to mitigate any risks to the health and life of persons with disabilities. Neglecting inclusiveness in this time would only further exacerbate human rights violations.

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Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission

Gushwell Brooks – Communications Co-ordinator Tel: 082 645 8573This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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