Protecting the rights of persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dear DRI Friends and Supporters,

Disability Rights International (DRI) has launched an immediate global effort to protect the lives of children and adults with disabilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

People with disabilities around the world living in orphanages, nursing homes, social care facilities, group homes, psychiatric hospitals and other congregate care settings are at great risk of dying from the corona virus unless urgent action is taken.

Long before this life-threatening virus reared its ugly head, DRI had spent decades documenting the plight of institutionalized children and adults in countries around the world, locked away and forgotten. We have reported abuse and neglect on a massive scale and one can only imagine the dangerous risk of infection for those living in crowded squalor. The virus will spread like fire in closed institutions and there will be no escape for already vulnerable people.

The world must act now. 

Children and adults with disabilities should never be denied medical care because they have a disability – their lives are every bit as “worthy” as non-disabled persons.

Governments, national health authorities, advocates, people with disabilities and their families, and the media must make sure the doors of institutions are unlocked and that care and testing – available to all others in the community – be offered to those living in residential facilities.

Children especially should be removed from group settings and placed with their families, kinship care or foster homes. It is well documented that up to 95% of the estimated 8 million children in orphanages and social care homes have living parents and extended families. It is poverty that pushes families to give up their children – hoping for a better life for them. Consequently, support to help families is critical.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) mandates “the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others … Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement.”

As if the CRPD and basic human rights were not enough to shutter every institution across the globe – where innocent children and adults are forcibly kept against their will, often for a lifetime – perhaps the looming death sentence for this population via COVID-19 can bring an end to this heinous practice.

There is no time to wait.

Institutions are horrible places to live – no friends, no family, no community, no choices, no freedom – no love. And they are very scary and lonely places to die.

DRI will continue our global advocacy efforts to protect the lives of people with disabilities – especially during such dire times – and we thank you for caring and we urgently need your continued support.

With much love and gratitude.

Laurie Ahern Eric Rosenthal
President Executive Director

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