UNESCO launches instruments to advertise disability-inclusive responses to COVID-19 – India Training | Newest Training Information | International Academic Information

As the global community continues to run vaccination campaigns, UNESCO has released a policy document and toolkit on disability inclusion. The aim is to empower governments to develop responsive responses to COVID-19 and beyond, highlight disability inclusion as a priority policy response in the context of COVID-19, and advocate for disability rights at all levels.

The online discussion “Cities that leave no one behind: COVID-19 responses for people with disabilities from politics to practice” was opened on July 27, 2021 by Gabriela Ramos, Deputy Director General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO. He emphasized the importance of data, the transversality of political interventions, the societal approach and the inclusion of the most vulnerable in the processes of political decision-making and service delivery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped uncover a plethora of vulnerabilities and fragility in our communities and is creating an ever-widening gap between groups. Vulnerable populations, including those who are physically, intellectually or cognitively disabled, are at greatest risk of being left behind in this divide.

The introduction of the two instruments was complemented by a rich discussion with a diverse panel of speakers including policy makers, experts and artists. Ambassador Daintowon Domah Pay-Bayer, Chair of the National Disability Commission, Liberia, took part in the discussion; Mayor I Gusti Ngurah Jaya Negara, Denpasar City, Indonesia; Jacques Galvani, Deputy Mayor in charge of Universal Access and People with Disabilities, City of Paris, France; Petra Björne, Research and Development Coordinator, Disability Aid Department, City of Malmö, Sweden; Varsha Gathoo, Head of the Ministry of Education, Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for Speech and Hearing Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Self-Determination, India; Magali Saby, professional dancer, founder of the inclusive dance academy “Be Together”. Moderated by Linda Tinio-Le Douarin (UNESCO Headquarters), the online discussion welcomed Juan Pablo Ramirez-Miranda (UNESCO New Delhi) as the final participant in the discussion.

Policymakers shared a range of inclusive strategies and innovative practices, ranging from national legislation and local regulations promoting strong disability rights frameworks to creative private sector collaboration mechanisms for the employment and inclusion of people with disabilities to development of research tools to produce data on disability inclusion. These examples reflect the importance of the frameworks proposed in the two documents presented.

With a collection of best practices from all regions, the policy document highlights the need to include guidelines for the development of accessible electronic content for learners and people with disabilities in policy plans for a variety of sectors such as health, nutrition, education, employment and wellbeing. The toolkit outlines the requirements to ensure disability inclusion in all policies and services developed by the United Nations Partnership for People with Disabilities (UNPRPD). These include equality and non-discrimination, service provision, accessibility, participation of people with disabilities, budgeting and financial management in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The toolkit also outlined a framework of recommendations on the impact of COVID-19 on the education of children with disabilities, as well as the health, employment, and independent and safe lives of people with disabilities. These included recommendations on: accessibility to information and services, building community support, developing disability-specific strategies and monitoring, and building the capacity of people with disabilities without discrimination and prejudice.

This online discussion was followed by a second section, which focused on the Latin American and Caribbean regions and for which a separate tool was also developed.

This initiative contributes to the United Nations Partnership for People with Disabilities (UNPRPD), which focuses on disability inclusion at various levels of government, including cities. UNESCO set up an intersectoral task team in January 2021 and put this topic high on the agenda by reviewing COVID responses from this perspective and analyzing disability integration strategies. The project is also conceived in the context of the roadmap that UNESCO is developing to step up its anti-racism and anti-discrimination efforts after member states adopted the Global Appeal against Racism in December 2020.

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