Two international disability rights groups say governments and health authorities are putting the lives of disabled people at greater risk during the coronavirus pandemic because of their failure to take “concerted action”.
International Disability Alliance (IDA) and International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) have launched a campaign to prevent discrimination against disabled people.
They described the situation as a “hidden crisis” for disabled people, and have written to the UN and the World Health Organisation.
They want the two organisations to send a stronger message to governments that disabled people must be included in measures to contain and treat COVID-19.
They also want to see public health information and communications around COVID-19 to be fully accessible.
They have asked the UN and its agencies to make their own daily briefings and any supporting documents on COVID-19 fully accessible.
Ana Lucia Arellano, chair of IDA – whose members include the European Disability Forum, the World Federation of the Deaf and the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry – said: “Life-saving information is not being made in accessible formats, which is leaving huge swathes of the population in the dark.
“The UN has now committed to a number of changes to ensure its information is more consistently accessible.
“We believe this will show governments and international media outlets that inclusion is possible and indeed necessary to reach all audiences.”
A woman has sent a second legal letter to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, calling on him to provide clarity on how “do not resuscitate” (DNR) decisions are made.
Kate Masters sent the letter to Hancock following an “unsatisfactory” response to a previous “pre-action protocol” letter.
Masters is the daughter of the late David Tracey, who brought a successful judicial review in 2014 which established that his late wife’s human rights had been breached after a DNR order was placed on her medical notes without her being consulted.
Masters fears that – due to the current pandemic – “blanket” DNR notices are being imposed on many people, and due to ongoing health problems she feels at significant risk herself of a DNR notice being imposed on her without full information in advance and proper consultation.
She said: “I feel it is clear that the health service needs some national guidance on DNRs to ensure that patients’ rights are protected.
“Not only that but I remain greatly concerned about my own situation and that of my family’s due to ongoing health problems – I want to make sure that what happened to my mum does not happen to anyone else.”
Her solicitor, Merry Varney, from Leigh Day, said: “This case is about alleged systematic breaches of patients’ human rights through the way in which do not resuscitate decisions are being taken, and our client believes that the secretary of state has a duty to take action to prevent these widespread violations and ensure her own rights are protected.”
BBC Two has commissioned a factual drama based on the story of how disabled activists Barbara Lisicki (pictured, left) and Alan Holdsworth (right) met, fell in love, and became the driving force behind the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN) in the early 1990s.
The drama has been commissioned to mark 25 years since the Disability Discrimination Act became law in 1995.
It has been written by the multiple BAFTA-winning disabled writer Jack Thorne, and Deaf actor-turned-writer Genevieve Barr.
Thorne said: “DAN changed the world through their actions, and they have never been properly celebrated for it; in this film we want to do that in a way that lauds their true punk spirit.”
A survey by the Benefits and Work website has raised concerns about how some telephone assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) – replacing face-to-face assessments because of the coronavirus pandemic – are being carried out.
More than 250 PIP claimants have responded to the survey so far.
Among concerns raised are respondents being wrongly told that they failed to answer their phone when their assessor called, and others being given no notice of their assessment, while 12 per cent of those who responded said their assessor did not have a quiet and confidential place from which to carry out the assessment.
One survey respondent told Benefits and Work: “Could hear other people laughing and making comments in the background. Then someone saying sshhh.”
Another said: “Her husband was in the vicinity and I was on speaker phone.”
The user-led charity Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS) has worked with Thames Valley Police to help autistic people and people with learning difficulties who have found it difficult to follow social distancing rules.
Some may also have additional or particular exercise needs, such as needing to exercise more often than others, or to exercise in a particular way or place, which could cause conflict with other people and lead to possible trouble with the police.
They can now obtain a letter from BuDS that explains their situation, and which is recognised by Thames Valley Police.
Andrew Clark, chair of BuDS, said: “The letters are a way for people to instantly explain their situation to others who may not understand why people are behaving differently or in a way which seems unusual.
“Disabled people have to have confidence that they can go out without unnecessary conflict arising from people’s lack of understanding, and these letters will help build that confidence.”
The letters can be obtained free from BuDS.
*For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page
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