The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by The United Nations states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Despite this declaration, in the midst of COVID-19, and beyond, it is clear that people with disabilities/disabled people do not have equal rights and access to basic healthcare, food, water, and security. People with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population but, have increased chances of disease and higher rates of poverty than those who are not disabled. The Covid-19 pandemic is similarly affecting people with disabilities/disabled people disproportionately.
This virus does not appear to us as a great equalizer. It is, instead, a great revealer. It reveals inequalities and inadequacies. It reveals class and racial divides. It reveals the gap between those who are able bodied, non-disabled and those who are disabled. It reveals and augments pre-existing inequalities in access to care, distribution of resources and mortality from illness.
This crisis cannot become another opportunity for governments to impose austerity, erode individual rights and violate their responsibilities to the people.
We must seize the moment of crisis from those who would use it to reinforce these inequalities:
It must be a moment to REIMAGINE our unequal and uneven healthcare and social structures. Now is the time to call for a reinforcement of global structures that would support and protect our most vulnerable individuals – and to make these structures and systems even more resilient.
The REIMAGINE community has come together across cultures, nationalities, gender, age, and profession to form a declaration in response to the lack of focus and clear action for people with disabilities/disabled people, in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic.
We present this declaration not as a finite set of demands and acknowledgements, but instead as a catalyst toward collective dialogue and action – across communities, cultures and continents.
Therefore, we call it “The Living Declaration”** of Disability, Resilience and Equity.