Disabled folks ‘have survived pandemic rights assaults with resilience’, says activist-peer – Incapacity Information Service

The equality and human rights of people with disabilities were “deeply undermined” during the COVID-19 pandemic. A disabled activist and peer gave an annual talk.

But baroness [Jane] Campbell shared with the online audience for the annual Caroline Gooding Memorial Lecture that disabled people survived the pandemic with “resilience, ingenuity and collective action.”

She said she was “confused, amazed and scared” at the pace of shift towards disability and broader civil rights due to the pandemic, Brexit and other cuts and reforms in recent years.

And she said the rights of people with disabilities have become “very easy targets” for the government in times of austerity.

The annual lecture was set up as a memorial to disabled lawyer and activist Caroline Gooding, who played a leading role in implementing the Disability Discrimination Act and ensuring improvements in disability rights legislation.

Gooding served as the director of legislative changes for the Disability Rights Commission for eight years. She died in July 2014.

Baroness Campbell (pictured) told the audience how the UK government had ignored guidelines on protecting the rights of disabled people during the pandemic released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in April.

Instead, the government spoke of protecting the “vulnerable” and the NHS, stressing that most deaths occurred in people with underlying health conditions.

Baroness Campbell highlighted the Office for National Statistics figures which show disabled people are responsible for at least three-fifths of COVID deaths in England and Wales.

And she said the “shocking” death rates of people with learning disabilities – people aged 18 to 34 years old 30 times more likely to die than non-disabled people in the same age group – showed that steps were being taken to minimize their risk. be ignored in national contingency planning with devastating effects ”.

And instead of taking note of the UN advice to include disabled people in the COVID-19 response, the UK government put “the vulnerabilities” on a shielding list, sent them guidelines “with no means of compliance” and made sure they went passive , “Different” and “victims” rather than treating them as “actively involved citizens”.

Personal assistants were deprived of personal protective equipment, food procurement became a challenge for millions of people with disabilities, and support was cut, leaving the lives of people with disabilities “at great risk” while the situation for people in nursing homes Was “even more insidious”. .

She told the audience: “This was not a human rights response to the government’s duty of care towards its so-called ‘vulnerable citizens’.

“You started to feel that there was hardly any difference between the term” vulnerable “and” expendable “.”

She also highlighted the widespread experience of disabled people being asked to consent to having a “Do not attempt resuscitation” statement added to their medical records and the use of an NHS branded “COVID-19 Decision Support Tool” to suggest that “frailty” With the help of scores, doctors can decide whether a patient should be treated in the intensive care unit.

However, she said disabled people had struggled through their campaign networks, organizations and social media and went “into full swing”.

This included drawing up a declaration signed by 160 disability organizations reminding the government of its duty to “uphold equality and human rights for people with disabilities” and leading to a declaration affirming these principles by senior NHS figures were.

It also led NHS England to set up a Working Group on Disabled People, which set up a set of principles to show clinicians how to treat the elderly and disabled during the pandemic.

She told the online audience, “This campaign … shows the power of disabled people’s self-advocacy and our ability, with the support of allies, to challenge potentially serious violations of the Equality Act and Human Rights Act.

“The right to NHS treatment, and essentially the right to life itself, was a small but significant achievement in the first few months.”

She pointed to other ways disabled people have stood up during the pandemic, including the Deaf-led campaign calling for a British sign language interpreter for the government’s pandemic television briefings, and the campaign to get the government off to convince the relief of the Care Act to shut down the powers “introduced by the Coronavirus Act.

Baroness Campbell told the audience that the examples she had given “were just a few examples of disabled people and their allies who showed amazing resilience to the virus and social injustice.

“Many did not survive, but we survive as a movement despite enormous obstacles to our inclusion.

“Despite the threat of a deadly virus and an attack on our basic disability rights, disabled people were not passive victims during this pandemic, and we will not be in the future.

“Together with our allies we organized and fought from the beginning of the pandemic.

“However, we are still at great risk. Our fundamental rights to live with dignity, respect and equality have been profoundly undermined. “

The lecture was sponsored by the University of Leeds School of Law and co-hosted by the University’s Center for Disability Studies and the University’s Center for Law and Social Justice.

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