Report about discrimations and negative impacts of the covid19 pandemic in persons with disabilities and their families in spain

Introduction

The Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities (CERMI) is an organization representing de Spanish Disability Movement that develops representative political action in defending the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. Our main mission consists in articulating and structuring the Spanish disability movement and to develop a representative political action in defending the rights and interests of persons with disabilities and their families, from the cohesion and unity of the sector.

CERMI was officially designated in 2011 by the Spanish State as an independent mechanism to monitor the application of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Spain. This gives it a series of reinforced powers with the United Nations and the Spanish State as a signatory of this Convention, which is part of our legal system and which advises the State Parties on an human-rights approach to disability. Since 2011, we have the special consultative status in ECOSOC.

The COVID-19 Pandemic is a test for societies, governments, communities and individuals. It is a time of solidarity and cooperation to tackle the virus, and to mitigate the effects, often unintended, of measures designed to halt the spread of COVID-19.

The COVID19 pandemic has a disproportionate impact on Persons with disabilities and their families. The proactive action of civil society, embodied by the Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities (CERMI), makes it possible to identify and denounce the most obvious forms of discrimination. CERMI also cooperates with public administrations to mitigate the effects of this public health crisis.

All CERMI actions are framed under the mandates of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty signed and ratified by Spain, fully in force in our country and therefore binding.

This report is divided into two sections: on the one hand, it exposes the areas where failures have happened and, as a consequence of that, discrimination has been detected, and then describes the work carried out by CERMI to mitigate the most harmful effects of this crisis on the human rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Rights violated during the pandemic

Accessibility

  • During the first moments of the crisis in Spain none of the appearances of public health spokespersons and authorities was accessible to deaf and hard of hearing persons. Disability organisations themselves had to fill the gap by disseminating accessible videos on their social networks. The active denunciation of CERMI hled to measures being taken to solve it.
  • No measures have been taken to ensure accessibility for persons with intellectual and/or learning disabilities, such as easy to read or pictograms. The organisations of persons with intellectual and/or learning disabilities had to assume these functions.
  • Nor has it been guaranteed that the telephone care and advice systems of health institutions are equally accessible.

Right to life

  • Documents and protocols promoted by Scientific Societies have been found to not follow human rights mandates to not to discriminate or treat unequally. These documents give guidance that creates prejudice and bias and considers some people have less value, whose health or whose life is sacrified for being of less priority.
  • These texts can make persons with disabilities be consdered as disposable in critical situations in the Health System. You cannot prioritise lives over others at the risk of a health collapse.
  • CERMI has denounced these documents to the health authorities, the Prosecutor's Office, the Ombudsman and the Bioethics Committee of Spain, so that they are vigilant about practices that may be eugenic and so that equitable and non-discriminatory health care is guaranteed in extraordinary pandemic emergency situations just regarding official criteria. CERMI requires that these recommendations revolve around the protection of the human right to life without exceptions, which must be followed in these exceptional situations, without the imposition of texts with no official value such as those of these scientific societies, which in no case are applicable law and they are not binding.

Right to health

  • Furthermore, many persons with disabilities have underlying health conditions and therefore at greater risk from this infection. That is why, they need better health supervision and in no case can they be deprioritised due to their disability.
  • To ensure the human right to health of persons with disabilities, CERMI has required health and social authorities, at the state and regional level, to prioritise the application of rapid diagnostic tests to persons with disabilities who reside in collective institutions as well as the workers who support and care for them, as a target population at extreme risk.

• It has also been requested that these rapid tests be extended to persons with disabilities who live in their homes who, due to their great needs for support, receive support from personal assistants and other direct social care professionals, as well as these same workers.

Confinement

  • The declaration of the state of emergency state by the Government of Spain, led t to confinement measures to stop the pandemic. However, certain persons with disabilities cannot, for reasons associated with their disabilities, remain indefinitely confined in their homes. They need to access public spaces to avoid great distress which can serious damage to their health and their mental and emotional wellbeing. These includes persons with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, autism, psychosocial disabilities or mental health issues, and others with similar effects.
  • The Royal Decree on the Declaration of the state of emergency in Spain did not include these situations, with the state security forces and bodies denouncing persons with disabilities and their families who went out onto the street.
  • Again CERMI denounced the situation and demanded that these exceptional situations be admitted. The Government of Spain accepted this request and it published an Instruction to establish interpretive criteria in these cases, to establish the need for some persons with disabilities or illnesses to leave the house daily for a time .
  • Once the administrative legal issue has been resolved, the civic issue is pending. Because now these persons or their companions are scolded and insulted by some persons when they see them on the street for strictly therapeutic reasons.

Right to education

  • The suspension of in-school activities has led the Ministry of Education and Professional Training to publish educational content on the children's channel of Spanish Public Television. These contents are not accessible to students with disabilities.

  • In this sense, CERMI regrets that these programs have not considered the reality of children with disabilities, especially those with sensory disabilities or with intellectual or developmental disabilities, since they lack measures such as subtitling, audio description, sign language or easy-to-read text.

  • The Autonomous Communities, directly responsible in Spain for education, have launched telematic educational platforms, which do not conceive accessibility so that students with disabilities who are home can have a guaranteed right to education during confinement.

  • This lack of accessibility compromises the right to education of persons with disabilities during the state of emergency, causing delays in the educational progress of these students that would affect the successful completion of the school year.

Right to work

  • Economic projections indicate that the coronavirus health crisis will result in an important economic crisis, which will primarily affect persons with disabilities, with fewer job opportunities and with more precarious employment contracts.

  • This situation will destroy employment of persons with disabilities, reduce their opportunities to access employment and affect sheltered employment spaces such as special sheltered employment centers, affected by massive layoffs and with less demand for production.

Residential spaces and support staff

  • In Spain there are many persons with disabilities who live in institutions, either in residences or supervised flats, however they have been the last to be provided with disinfection protocols or protective material.

  • The health of professionals working to guarantee the autonomy of persons with disabilities, such as personal assistants, mediators, interpreter guides and sign language interpreters, is also not being addressed.

Social protection

  • Persons with disabilities and/or in situations of dependency and their families must continue to be cared for during the state of emergency. Many persons with disabilities and/or situations of dependency require the help and collaboration of a third person to be able to carry out the basic activities of daily life or the development of their personal autonomy.
  • No measures have been planned to alleviate the foreseeable situation of economic vulnerability and unemployment, which will affect persons with disabilities and their families in a more virulent way.

Women with disabilities, mothers, and caregivers

  • The gender dimension has not been ensured in the response offered to persons with disabilities. The response must consider in a differentiated way the particular needs of women and girls at a general level, but also the different needs that they may pose within the same disability. It is not about giving them more support, but about guaranteeing that all disabled persons who need it benefit from assistance without discrimination.
  • Nor have any actions been taken to protect mothers and caregivers, so that this emergency does not impact women in an excessive way.

Sustainability of disability organisations

  • In Spain, the disability movement, in addition to defending the rights of persons with disabilities and their families, assumes the creation and management of services and a program to support inclusion. This situation can put at risk the sustainability of these organisations and suspend or tremendously weaken these care, intervention, employment or educational services, which depend on public or private funds.

CERMI's action to protect the rights of persons with disabilities

The CERMI social movement has been responsive since the beginning of the pandemic and it has launched actions to defend the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities during this health emergency:

  • Emergency operational document for CERMI organizations on adequate healthcare without discrimination on the grounds of disability in the coronavirus crisis.
  • Persons with disabilities and their families and the coronavirus health crisis: compendium of recommendations for the short-term management of the pandemic.
  • Complaints to the appropriate institutions of the most evident discrimination towards persons with disabilities.
  • Proposal and permanent dialogue with the Government of Spain to offer solutions for the care of persons with disabilities during the pandemic.
  • Dialogue and cooperation with United Nations and European Union organizations.
  • Attention to specific cases of discrimination.
  • Support for the CERMI associative network.
  • Preparation of a report on the impact of the pandemic on the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities.