A coalition of disabled people’s organisations in Scotland has published a statement calling for “immediate action” to ensure access to healthcare for disabled people during the COVID-19 crisis, and to prevent “discriminatory denial” of health services.
The Scottish Independent Living Coalition has sent the statement to ministers, local government, the NHS and “many others who have a role to play in ensuring our human rights”.
They say in the statement that disabled people are “feeling pressured into agreeing to Do Not Resuscitate notices, or to not being admitted to hospital if they fall ill”, while “expressed wishes are not always being respected” and they are being “refused equal access to life-saving treatments”.
They say that disabled people in Scotland “are experiencing breaches to their human rights and discrimination” which “cannot be allowed to continue”.
Among their calls for “immediate action”, they say that decisions about someone’s access to healthcare “must be based only on expected health outcomes, not on disability status or use of social care or other support”, while disabled people receiving support must have access to the personal protective equipment they need.
And they call for a “fast-response service” that would allow concerns and complaints to be “raised and rapidly addressed”.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has warned of the risks to disabled people’s human rights posed by the rapid increase in the use of video technology in the criminal justice system in England and Wales during the COVID-19 crisis.
The commission spoke out as it released the interim findings of its inquiry into whether the criminal justice system treats disabled people fairly in England, Wales and Scotland.
It warned that there was a “heightened risk that disabled people may not be able to realise their right to a fair trial if their specific needs are not recognised and met during remote hearings”.
It highlighted the use of video hearings in England and Wales, which it said can “significantly hinder communication and understanding” for autistic people, people with learning difficulties, and people with mental health conditions.
It said that defendants’ needs “must be identified from the outset so that adjustments can be put in place”.
The interim report does not call for video and telephone hearings to be halted, but David Isaac, EHRC’s chair, said: “Our interim report shows that there currently isn’t enough evidence to determine how the design and implementation of video-links and digital justice impacts individuals.
“We make a number of recommendations to help reduce the risk that disabled people could be wrongly convicted or receive inappropriate sentences.
“Equality before the law means that no one defending themselves in court should be disadvantaged because they are disabled – even during a time of national crisis.”
Disabled people’s organisations across Greater Manchester are appealing for disabled people to take part in a survey that asks what issues they are facing during the COVID-19 crisis.
The survey was drawn up by the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel, which scrutinises and advises the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.
The panel plans to use the survey results to tell services across Greater Manchester how to meet disabled people’s support needs during the pandemic.
Although it focuses on Greater Manchester, disabled people from outside the area can also fill it in. The deadline for completion is 11 May.
The questions were drawn up by 14 disabled people’s organisations and groups across Greater Manchester, based on the issues and experiences their members are facing during the pandemic.
Local authorities in London have introduced changes to the city’s Taxicard system that should help some disabled people secure food and other essential supplies during the coronavirus crisis.
Taxicard has more than 60,000 members and provides subsidised door-to-door journeys in licensed taxis and private hire vehicles for London residents with significant mobility or visual impairments.
The changes mean that any Taxicard member can now ask drivers to pick up and deliver essential supplies to them.
It also allows them to nominate a friend, relative or care worker to use their Taxicard to buy or collect items on their behalf.
The Taxicard scheme is managed by London Councils, and is funded by London’s local authorities and Transport for London.
London Councils said the temporary measures would remain while the COVID-19 lockdown measures were in place.
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