Media Release COVID-19 Response Needs to Be Approached with a Disability Lens

For Immediate Release | March 20, 2020
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) reminds all levels of government, community organizations and businesses responding to the COVID-19 crisis that all planning needs to be done using a human and disability rights lens to ensure that our country’s response does not leave anyone behind.
When Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), it made a commitment to meet the standard set out in Article 25 (Health), which requires that, “…States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure access for persons with disabilities to health services that are gender-sensitive, including health-related rehabilitation. In particular, States Parties shall: a) Provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, …”
CCD encourages decision makers to follow the principles of universal design so that people with the widest range of human abilities can make use of the community resources developed to respond to COVID-19.  “Testing sites should be physically accessible and conveniently located on public transit routes,” states John Rae, CCD 2nd Vice Chair.  “Updated public health information in plain language should be available on accessible websites so that all Canadians can easily understand this critical information,” continues Rae.
“While we understand the need for social distancing, we also know that it is important for people with disabilities in extended care facilities to keep connected to their personal support networks which can be an important safety net that keeps people safe from abuse,” states John Rae 2nd Vice Chair.  “We echo the comments of Catalina Davandas the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities who has stated, ‘Restrictions should be narrowly tailored, and use the least intrusive means to protect public health. Limiting their contact with love ones leaves people with disabilities totally unprotected from any form of abuse or neglect in institutions.’”
As governments move to introduce economic measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the financial life of the country, people with disabilities must be included in an equitable manner in these plans as people with disabilities face a disproportionate rate of poverty.  In addition, people with disabilities face additional costs related to their disabilities that people without disabilities do not incur.
Individuals and private businesses can also play a role in keeping environments barrier-free, as the country responds to COVID-19. For example, use scent-free sanitizing products in public places to keep these areas safe for people who have environmental sensitivity. Some commercial service providers are implementing social distancing measures by asking customers to wait in their personal vehicles instead of waiting rooms. Businesses need to accommodate customers with disabilities, who travel on public transit and do not have a personal car, by providing priority space for them in waiting rooms.  “We are pleased to observe some businesses accommodating customers with disabilities.  For example, some stores are reserving a beginning of the day priority shopping period for people with disabilities and seniors so that they can make their purchases in less crowded conditions when the shelves are well stocked,” states John Rae.
To ensure that our responses benefit the entire community, Canada needs to take an intersectional approach to the decision making around the COVID-19.  Diverse decision making is smart decision making.  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Catalina Davandas “has urged that the organizations of people with disabilities be involved in all stages of the COVID-19 response.”
CCD is a national human rights organization of people with disabilities working for an inclusive and accessible Canada.  Our mission and mandate is as follows:
Mission - The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is a social justice organization of people with all disabilities that champions the voices of people with disabilities, advocating an inclusive and accessible Canada, where people with disabilities have full realization of their human rights, as described in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Mandate - The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) unites advocacy organizations of people with disabilities to defend and extend human rights for persons with disabilities through public education, advocacy, intervention in litigation, research, consultation and partnerships.  CCD amplifies the expertise of our partners by acting as a convening body and consensus builder.
For More Information Contact:
John Rae, 2nd Vice Chair and Chair of the CCD Social Policy Committee: Tel: 416-941-1547. Email: