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New guidelines for the rights of people with disability during COVID-19

Disability Rights
A person holds a bottle of hand sanitiser and pumps it into their hand.

New guidelines to support the rights of people with disability during the COVID-19 pandemic have been released today by Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Ben Gauntlett. 

The Australian Human Rights Commission developed the Guidelines on the rights of people with disability in health and disability care during COVID-19 to assist health care, disability services and support workers take a human rights-based approach to decision-making during the pandemic.

Dr Gauntlett said the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the systemic disadvantage that Australians with disability may face.

“The interaction between people with disability and the health care and disability support systems during the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to significant human rights issues,” he said.

“People with disability may be placed in situations where they become vulnerable and profound power imbalances exist. We need to ensure all people are treated with dignity and respect.

“Sometimes human rights issues arise inadvertently when health care professionals or disability support workers may be unaware of their own unconscious biases or the effect of their decisions.”

In April 2020, the Australian Government Advisory Committee for the COVID-19 Response for People with Disability was formed.

Dr Gauntlett, who is a member of the Committee, said the Guidelines had been drafted to support the Committee’s Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability, which focuses on clinical, public health and communications actions by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments.

In addition to providing advice for health care and disability support workers, the Guidelines may also be useful for people with disability, their families and carers in understanding their rights, Dr Gauntlett said.

The Guidelines are available to read in full here.