Disability-inclusive COVID-19 response

The COVID-19 pandemic and its related socioeconomic consequences magnify obstacles and inequalities. Persons with disabilities are in many ways more exposed to the crisis. The risk in the response to the current crisis is that persons with disabilities will be left behind – a risk companies can address effectively.

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Facilitated by the ILO Global Business and Disability Network,all interested stakeholders, including governments, workers’ and employers’ organisations as well as organisations of persons with disabilities participated in a webinar to share good practices on the inclusion of people with disabilities in the COVID-19 responses related to the World of Work. Speakers: Federico Negro, Head of Coordination Support unit for Peace and Resilience(CSPR) at ILO; Haibin Zhou, coordinator of the China chapter of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network; Yves Veulliet, Global Disability & Inclusion Leader at IBM; Jon Messenger, Senior Specialist on Working Conditions at ILO; Bela Gor, Head of Legal & Content at Business Disability Forum (BDF),United Kingdom.

The inequalities exacerbating COVID-19’s impact on persons with disabilities are not new. The risk in the response to the current crisis is that persons with disabilities will be left behind once again. The good news is that we already know what works.

ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, explains that many persons with disabilities come into the COVID-19 crisis already facing significant exclusion in all areas of the world of work. The pandemic and resulting economic shocks increase the vulnerability of persons with disabilities to further inequalities. The new ILO policy brief points out what needs to be done to make the socio-economic response inclusive of persons with disabilities and also addresses issues related to containment measures and the long-term recovery.

In May 2020, the ILO Global Business and Disability Network conducted two surveys – one for National Business and Disability Networks (NBDN) and one for those networks’ company members – to identify good practices and gaps in responding to the COVID-19 crisis in a disability-inclusive way. In total, 159 companies from 22 countries (representing four regions) participated in the company survey, and 19 national networks participated in the NBDN survey.

The purpose of this policy by the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) brief is to highlight emerging practices that employers may use as workers return to the workplace during and after the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that facilitate equal employment opportunity for qualified individuals with disabilities and protect the health and safety of all employees.