While we are yet to see the full impact of COVID-19 in this country, it is already clear that this global pandemic is exacerbating the challenges faced by people with disability in the Australian community.
These challenges are impacting the health and economic wellbeing of people with disability and will require a comprehensive community response. It is vital that the basic human rights of all Australians continue to be protected, respected and promoted. This is an issue that affects people with disability throughout the world and has been recognised by both the United Nations and World Health
I have been heartened to see the responses of different organisations in working to meet the particular needs of Australians with disability during this time, such as the grocery stores dedicating certain hours for shopping and offering priority delivery for people who need it.
However, there is a need to ensure people with disability are considered by all decision-makers who play a role in developing the nation’s response. It is essential that outcomes are non-discriminatory, equitable and fair, particularly within the health, employment, education and housing systems.
While we have seen the inclusion of Auslan interpreters on screen for key press conferences become more common, it is also crucial that information and communication are accessible for people with different communication needs during this time.
We must also ensure that people with disability continue to be able to access the supports and assistance that are an essential part of their everyday lives. The impacts of policies relating to physical distancing must recognise the needs of people with disability, their friends and families, support workers, support providers and the health system.
There is significant work still to do to ensure Australians with disability are treated equally and in a non-discriminatory manner, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.
Dr Ben Gauntlett
Disability Discrimination Commissioner