COVID-19 has exacerbated persistent segregation and discrimination against persons with disabilities, exposing flaws in support systems, healthcare and education.
In a resolution adopted by 682 votes in favour, 3 against and 10 abstentions, MEPs call on member states to ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to healthcare and social services for persons with intellectual disabilities, as well as psychological support and access to legal recourse and information during and in the aftermath of COVID-19.
Parliament recalls that strict lockdown measures have caused further isolation for persons with disabilities, harmed their mental health and led to the disruption of regular health treatment, personal assistance and distance learning. Authorities need to treat persons with disabilities as a priority and not further isolate them, say MEPs, calling for greater flexibility as countries emerge from lockdown.
Reinforcing support systems and preparing for the future
The pandemic has exposed major flaws in support systems for a number of at-risk groups and persons with mental illnesses. MEPs strongly condemn any medical discrimination against persons with intellectual disabilities and recall that support services and communications must be provided using “innovative methods of heath care delivery”.
In addition, they urge the Commission to mobilise essential investments and resources to guarantee the continuity of care and support services, in line with the principles in UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Pillar of Social Rights.
The Commission and member states must take into account the specific needs and circumstances of persons with disabilities, and involve them from the beginning in any measures and preparations for future crises. MEPs also call on the Commission to put forward a comprehensive, ambitious and long-term post-2020 European Disability Strategy proposal, which takes into account lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected persons with intellectual and mental health problems, as highlighted in a petition received by Parliament. The petitioner highlights the harmful effects of lockdown and requests that measures taken during the health crisis and its aftermath are compatible with both the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities.