COVID 19: activities of our members

16 March 2020

These are some activities that our members are actively working on as a response to the COVID pandemic.

If you have any updates on how organisations of persons with disabilities are responding to the COVID19 crisis please let us know:



The National Superior Council of Disabled Persons and the Belgian Disability Forum sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister in charge of persons with disabilities on the following topics:

Lack of accessibility of information:

Neither the federal site for citizens nor televised government communications regarding coronavirus are accessible: no sign language video, no easy to read and no guarantee of web accessibility (label or statement)

Health and support services

  • Health professionals, personal assistants, respite care, home help, etc ... have not received any official information
  • A very large number of medical consultations have to be carried through telephone, skype and other computer modules: there is no information to what extent accessibility for people with disabilities is ensured.

Persons with disabilities living in institutions

  • External visits are not permitted: the issues related to the elimination of visits (families, volunteers, etc.) must be integrated into the staff costs (meals, accompaniment, etc.), not to mention the well-being of disabled persons.
  • There is a need to clarify the situation of non-permanent residents who return to their families on a regular basis.
  • The situation must be considered at all levels as an absolutely emergency situation: no penalties should be imposed to persons with disabilities with regard to their care (setting of aid and support rates).

For people living alone and dependent – or not – on home care:

  • Care must be taken to maintain and, if necessary, strengthen the support measures for these people, who will be left alone to fend for themselves.
  • Certain life situations will require increased support: it is absolutely essential that ALL the professional partners coordinate to ensure that these people are taken care of in the coming weeks, at least in terms of monitoring their health.


The Czech National Disability Council sent a letter to the Ministers of Health and Labour asking:

  • To distribute protective equipment to carers and personal assistants of persons with disabilities;
  • Extend paid leave to parents or carers of persons with disabilities that are over 15 years old and need support;


After advocacy from the Danish organization of deaf people, there is now sign interpretation on live press conferences on the matter. There is also live captioning.

The Danish organisation of persons with disabilities and other Civil Society Organisations have been asked to advise authorities about how to secure most people with disabilities are kept informed about the situation. The Danish organisation of persons with disabilities put forward the following ideas to the authorities:

  • Put up a national phone number, run by the authorities, where the latest recommendations are read up for people who can’t go to the web page, who a are elderly or have problems reading .
  • Make information available in easy to read-papers and flyers.
  • Close cooperation between authorities, Civil Society Organisation and trade unions, organizing the employees, who are working on institutions on how to tell the most vulnerable of our members about the situation and how to cope with it.


The Estonian Chamber of Disabled people published several updates to inform on the response of the Estonian government to the situation.


APF France Handicap started a resource page with all useful information.

Federation Nationale "Grandir Ensemble" started a platform to support families with children with disabilities.

The French organization of persons with intellectual disabilities prepared a easy to read guide on COVID 19.

The organization “Santé BD” prepared an easy to understand visual poster on the health measures people should take.

Association Valentin Huay prepared an acessible version of the form needed to leave the house


The associations working together in the German Disability Council (DBR) released a statement calling for accessible information regarding this crisis, such as press conferences and recommendations on the situation and development of the Corona crisis.

The statement was sucessful. The government implemented several actios to ensure accessibility:

Lebenshilfe German published an informative guide in its newsletter on how to handle the corona virus with regard to persons with intellectual disabilities, supplemented by an easy to read guide.


The Greek national council has advocated for:

The Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and the Greek National Organization for Public Health (EODY)  have issued information about Covid- 19 in accessible formats. 


Organisations of persons with disabilities in Hungary sent a series of suggestions to the authorities including:

  • People with disabilities need to have proper personal assistance, especially if current assistance (family member or cared) is affected by the virus.
  • Ensure food supply of persons with disabilities living alone;
  • Quarantine for infected persons with disabilities shall be accessible, including accessible physical accessibility and communication. Orthopedic aids of persons with disabilities shall be taken by ambulance vehicles in case we are to be taken to hospital. Staff shall be knowledgeable about the special needs of persons with disabilities, among others those whose breathing muscles are (partially) paralysed.
  • Disinfection of entrance doors for disabled people, handrails of ramps or staircases, accessibility knobs for doors for people with mobility disabilities.
  • Products to sterilise shall be available for persons with disabilities.
  • The webpage dedicated to the information on the coronavirus shall include information on measures available for persons with disabilities
  • Protocol for home office work of disabled persons in mainstream workplaces shall be worked out
  • The government shall give information on measures that ensure safe health and social care services for persons with disabilities in course of the virus.

Most client services for some organisations of persons with disabilities are closed. Work from home is applied.


Disability Federation of Ireland is proving live updates on twitter.

AsIAm, a member of Autism Europe base in Ireland produced a social story to explain the situation to children on the spectrum and hosted a webinar about maintaining calmness, along with a post with resources


Being the first country to have experienced high levels of infection, and deaths, Italy imposed strict quarantine measures which are impacting the daily lives of everyone.

Decrees on the lockdown measures have included indications regarding:

  • For student and pupils: organising home activities for day care 
  • Rehabilitation centers: suspend non-cor activities or all activities.
  • Residential services: visits from external guests are cancelled and those working there are monitoring their health closely. 

For persons with disabilities that need a high level of support and cannot have daily services, the organisations of persons with disabilities requested support for families to enable people to give care at home. 

The cited national networks have urged the government to issue a specific Decree on disability issues.

The managing bodies of these residential services need financial support to sustain this emergency: overtime hours of work, suspension of holidays and leave, massive purchase of tools and aids to prevent contagion.

Extra support activities for service users who, like many us in the general population, do not understand the emergency and are unable to cope with the new restrictions. Restrictions that have effectively blocked all social activities of the services.

For now, services for persons with disabilities are in the forefront of containing contagion among persons with disabilities.  These services are run by mostly non-profit entities that need support as.

Some communications produced in Italy oinclude some measures for accessibility and information for persons with disabilities:

The page of the Health Department with FAQ (Frequent Asked Question) on persons with disabilities (in Italian)

Here is a link to the Civil Protection Department bulletin videos with Italian Sign Language (no subtitles)

And at the end of the page: Deaf or hearing impaired people can use the email address dedicated to them to get information

Fondazione Oltre Il Labirinto Onlus, Italy, started an online support help desk for Italian families of people on the autism spectrum 


The Lithuanian Disability Forum prepare information in easy to understand language about COVID 19.

They also sent recommendations to Lithuanian authorities.


Press briefings and statements are being intrepreted into sign language.

The official webpage of the authorities has resources in easy to read and services tu support persons with disabilities (such as grocery delivery and pick up of medicines).


The Dutch Network for People with Disabilities or Chronic Illness called on the Dutch government to improve accessibility of crisis communication.

They also translated and shared our demands to authorities.


The National Federation of Persons with Cerebral Palsy released a statement about inclusion of persons with disabilities.


The Slovenian National Disability Council translated and sent EDF's "Open letter to leaders at the EU and in EU countries"


On the 23 March, the Spanish National Council of persons with disabilities released a list of barriers, proposed solutions and recommendations to authorities. 

On the 21 March, the Spanish National Council of persons with disabilities released a public statement calling on health authorities to not discriminate against persons with disabilities when deciding who has access life saving treatment for COVID 19 (such as access to ventilators.)

On 13 March, the Spanish National Council of persons with disabilities released a public statement calling on the authorities to, among others:

  • Ensure the content of public news and information campaigns on the pandemic aimed at the general public is accessible.
  • Ensure continued public funding during the current closures and suspension of activities and to ensure that the organisations responsible for providing these social services to people via public delegation are not made to suffer as a result of the economic downturn.
  • In regard to temporary support from Social Security for parents who are forced to stay at home to care for children whose schools or care centres have been closed, CERMI requests an additional 25% increase if the child has a disability, in order to take into consideration the extra additional cost of caring for persons with disabilities. It is also not sufficient for the measure to cover only school closures; it must be extended to include places where social services are provided (early intervention centres, occupational centres, day-care centres, etc).
  • A temporary increase to 65% in the subsidy to reach the minimum wage for each employee with disabilities and with special difficulties to be included in the labour market.
  • keep up the fullest possible social dialogue, consultations and active listening activities with the disability sector as they manage this public health crisis, with a view to making sure people with disabilities are not left unprotected or facing greater exposure to the effects of the pandemic.

The Spanish Health Ministry health has given permission to autistic people to access the streets during COVID19 lock-down as not being allowed to go outside can be challenging for them, thanks to advocacy from our members Autismo Espana and Cermi Estatal.

An hospital in Madrid launched an helpline to support autistic people and their families.


Funktionsratt, the national council of persons with disabilities in Sweden, published a press release calling on authorities to involve them in the creation of ethical guidelins on prioritisation of patients. 

They also have a dedicated page for updates about the corona virus


The Swiss Publich Health authority prepared information in international sign.

United Kingdom

Leonard Ceshire co-signed an open letter Coronavirus bill and disabled people.

European Organisations


Autism-Europe is currently gathering useful resources and tips from across the world as COVID19 is particularly challenging for autistic people who see disruption in their routine, and have difficulty to face uncertainty and change. Them and theirs members are also advocating for the needs of autistic people to be taken into consideration at this time of crisis.

Many people in the autism community are sharing resources and advice to support autistic people, for example:

Users of cochlear implants

EURO-CIU expresses three main areas of concern

  • Countries have not really implemented the new Accessibility Act, therefore they have not included "accessibility" in emergencies. Most countries have issued new reports, new laws, etc. but without making them accessible to persons with hearing loss. 
  • A lot of countries have closed their schools, universities, etc. and are now trying to educate by internet. The problem is that the systems that exist ar enot prepared for accessibility of students with hearing loss and cochlear implant users. 
  • Teachers are doing online classes without subtitles, they arenot respecting the need to read lips when they give lectures or powerpoint presentations, and they are giving a lot of written homework but without explanations. 
  • Online work meetings are also not accessible. There is also a lot of fear to be fired  especially since many persons with disabilities have jobs that cannot be done from home. 

European Union of the Deaf

Deafblind users

The European Deafblind Union (EDbU) relayed some of the concerns on behalf of all deafblind people regarding the safe access to information in relation to COVID-19 outbreak.

Due to the fact that there is still a lot of countries without a national Deafblind organisation to provide support and information, it is vitally important that:

  • Internet and TV have to ensure reasonable accommodation on ways and how to inform and the ability to properly access the necessary websites covering coronavirus so as to inform them all about it. Simple and direct ways to access information such as websites who just have plain text (with adjustable sizes) with all the main information that allows users to read with ease.
  • Authorities address special concerns about social distancing which, if implemented, would pose real problems to deafblind people. Deafblind people need deafblind interpreters for not just providing information but also providing guidance when travelling. How they will the deafblind get the services of deafblind interpreters they need if it becomes necessary to impose social distancing?
  • TV programmes should also show a sign language interpreter on full screen or standing next to speaker because Deafblind people cannot see the small oval shaped bubble with the interpreter that usually resides at the corner of a TV screen.

DPI Europe

DPI Europe prepared a collection of resources.

European Federation of Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH)

The EFHOH co-signed the statement of the International Federation of the Hard of Hearing People: "Statement Regarding Coronavirus & Hard of Hearing People"

Persons with intellectual disabilities

Inclusion Europe reports that several organisations prepared easy to read and understand information. These include organisations in:

  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • France

European Network of (ex)Users and Survivors of Psychiatry

The network co-signed the "Statement by regional and international organizations of people with psychosocial disabilities with recommendations in the context of COVID-19 pandemic."

European Association of Service Provider for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD)

EASPD started a resource page "The COVID-19 outbreak and Support Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities"

They started a facebook group for support services.

Their advocacy to EU Institutions includes the statement "EU invisible on social emergency of COVID-19" and  a joint "call on the EU to ensure that the EU Response to COVID-19 tackles threat of social care emergency"




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