The Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Older Persons in a Pandemic: Findings from Two Studies Conducted in China

While  the  COVID-19  pandemic  has had an impact  on  all  members  of  society,  persons with  disabilities and especially older persons with disabilities have been disproportionately  affected.  With the reduction and sometimes complete shutdown of vital services, persons with disabilities were  left  without  human  contact, food   and   even   medicines.  Community relief responses to COVID-19 were not designed to reach persons with disabilities or older persons. Women  and  girls  with  disabilities  became  even  more  vulnerable  to  domestic abuse.

The need for research and solutions to build more inclusive and resilient systems is urgent. In light of this, RWI is pleased to present the report: The Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Older Persons in a Pandemic: Findings from Two Studies Conducted in China.

The report is the result of a research grant launched within RWI’s disability research network in China, and a collaboration between RWI and two teams of Chinese disability-rights scholars and activsts.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilties in a Pandemic

The report consists of two studies. The first text, Lessons Learned from COVID-19: A Participatory Action Research Project with People with Disabilities and Seniors in China, explores the experiences of persons with disabilities and older persons during the onset of the pandemic. It focuses on the key areas education, healthcare, employment and community living, documenting the problems reported by persons with disabilities and older persons, as well as their suggested solutions.

The  second  text  of  this  report  is  entitled Empowering  the  community: reflecting  on  community-based  services  for  persons  with  disabilities  in  risks and  emergencies. The text charts the lack of inclusion of persons with disabilities within their communities,  and the shortcomings that were exposed when persons with disabilities  re-entered  family  homes  and  community  settings  because  of  the shutdown   of   institutionalized   and   segregated   services   during   COVID-19. It is anchored in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD): Living independently and being included in the community.

The importance of solutions and building back better

The report focuses on solutions. The insights it provides are important both in relation to preparing communities for emergencies, and for how to create inclusive societies overall. As Gerard Quinn, the Raoul Wallenberg Chair of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and as of October 2020 UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, points out in his foreword to the report, when ‘building back better’, it must be with all people in mind.

The report and RWI’s work in the field of disability rights studies in China is presented in detail in the introduction by Senior Researcher Anna Bruce and Senior Programme Officer Chen Ting Ting.

Since 2012 the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law has supported multi-disciplinary research on disability issues in China in cooperation with Wuhan University’s Public Interest and Development Law Institute (PIDLI) and the Wuhan East Lake Institute for Social Advancement (EISA). The purpose of this collaboration is to bring together different stakeholders from academia, disabled people’s organisations and government institutions to formulate a common rights-based research and policy development agenda. Read more about our work in this area on our China Programme page: Rights of Persons With Disabilities


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