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UN Policy Brief: "A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19"
05 May 2020

"We have a unique opportunity to design and implement more inclusive and accessible societies" António Guterres.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, presented last 5th of May,  “A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19” a report that recommends a disability-inclusive response and recovery for everyone. This document highlights the impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities and outlines recommendations to make the response and recovery inclusive of persons with disabilities. It identifies four overarching areas of action that are applicable for all:

  1. Ensure mainstreaming of disability in all COVID-19 response and recovery together with targeted actions.
  2. Ensure accessibility of information, facilities, services and programmes in the COVID-19 response and recovery.
  3. Ensure meaningful consultation with and active participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all stages of the COVID-19 response and recovery.
  4. Establish accountability mechanisms to ensure disability inclusion in the COVID-19 response.

Due to this pandemic, people with disabilities are now more than ever a vulnerable group. Those who suffer from a disability are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19, of developing more severe health conditions and worst-case scenario, dying from the virus. Those who live in institutions due to their disability are more likely to contract the virus and face slimmer chances of survival. Since the outbreak discrimination in accessing healthcare and life-saving procedures for those suffering from a disability has become a reality.

The socio-economic consequences brought on by COVID-19 and the measures taken to control the pandemic have checked all progress related to disability matters. COVID-19 has taken a toll on disabled people impacting employment and social protection, education, support services and violence against them.

COVID-19 response and recovery must consider:

  • Non-discrimination
  • Intersectionality
  • Accessibility
  • Participation
  • Accountability
  • Data disaggregation

Disability can be found all around, it is part of our society and thus it affects all markets and sectors. For the COVID-19 response and recovery to be rock solid, disability-inclusive actions and recommendations need to be considered under a sectoral frame:


  • Ensure accessible public health information
  • Implement protective measures against COVID-19
  • Ensure accessibility to services
  • Ensure non-discrimination in the allocation of scarce medical resources
  • Make mental health interventions inclusive of persons with disabilities

Protecting people in institutional settings (such as nursing homes, social care homes, psychiatric facilities, detention facilities etc.)

  • Prepare institutions to prevent and respond to potential infections
  • Reduce the number of people within institutions
  • Reduce the number of persons with disabilities in prisons

Support services

  • Ensure the continuity of support services
  • Expand community support for persons with disabilities

Social protection and employment

  • Expand mainstream and disability-targeted social protection and adapt delivery mechanisms to provide adequate relief and support to persons with disabilities and their families
  • Employment and working conditions need to be responsive to accessibility and inclusion
  • Alternate working arrangements and conditions made accessible and inclusive
  • Ensure disability-inclusive Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) measures
  • Approaches to coming out of lockdown need to be sensitive to the situation of persons with disabilities


  • Ensure distance learning is accessible to, and inclusive of, students with disabilities
  • Address impacts that go beyond learning
  • Ensure that return to school programmes are inclusive

Prevention of and response to violence

  • Ensure inclusive and accessible victim assistance services
  • Strengthen awareness raising and knowledge

Humanitarian contexts

  • Ensure disability-inclusive humanitarian assistance and disaster response

Delivering on the SDGs — Building Back Better

Everything which is done during and after the COVID-19 crisis must have a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics and the many other global challenges we face. Countries’ immediate efforts towards social and economic recovery will be crucial for progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including addressing inequalities and ensuring that no one is left behind.

To build equal, inclusive and resilient communities it is important to:

  1. Meaningfully engage persons with disabilities at all stages of the response
  2. Prioritize persons with disabilities in the socio-economic response
  3. Track inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities in national response and recovery plans
  4. Improve health outcomes for people with disabilities
  5. Build sustainable and disability-inclusive social protection systems
  6. Address the specific situation of workers with disabilities in all sectors
  7. Invest in community-based solutions
  8. Initiate multi-stakeholder dialogue and collaboration.

A disability inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery will better serve everyone. It will provide for more inclusive, accessible and agile systems capable of responding to complex situations, reaching the furthest behind first.

Click here for full video of António Guterres at launch of Policy Brief on Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19. (Available with captioning and international sign language interpretation)

Policiy Brief: A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19