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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Leaders in private sector companies can play a decisive role in making sure that the immediate and socio-economic responses to the global COVID-19 crisis are inclusive of persons with disabilities and their needs. The ILO Global Business and Disability Network and The Valuable 500 teamed up to take a closer look.

Moderated by Caroline Casey (Founder, The Valuable 500), Paul Polman (Chair and Co-founder, IMAGINE) and Matthias Thorns (Deputy Secretary-General, International Organisation of Employers (IOE)) discussed what business leaders can and should do to make COVID-19 responses inclusive of persons with disabilities.

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.

A disability-inclusive response to COVID-19 is a better response for all: Experts share their views

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.