Fight for Right’s Call to Action: Prioritize Ukrainians with Disabilities
Fight for Right’s Call to Action:
Prioritize Ukrainians with Disabilities
Fight for Right Ukraine, a national Ukrainian Organisation of Persons with Disabilities, calls on the International community, the Ukrainian government and emergency team in their efforts to take immediate actions to come to the critical aid of the 2.7 million persons with disabilities during this crisis and war. However, the situation for people with disabilities continues to be perilous, as they have been excluded by the general coordinated efforts to evacuate.
“Right now people with disabilities are the most affected group by the war in Ukraine. There are people [with disabilities] trapped, there are people [with disabilities] dying; we have been left behind. We have been trying to help ourselves, but we need help. We need accessible evacuation efforts prioritized for people with disabilities. Who at our hour of greatest need will help? Where is the money you’ve promised? In whose hands is it in? I certainly haven’t seen it and I certainly wasn’t given it when I asked before the invasion,” Yuliia Sachuk, Fight for Right Chairperson, underscored.
There are 2.7 million people with disabilities registered in Ukraine. In 2019, the state statistic services registered 163,886 children with disabilities, half of whom are institutionalised. Additionally, it is estimated that there are between 80,000-100,000 people living in institutions in Ukraine. Many persons with disabilities are at significant additional risk during the ongoing war due to limited access to suitable supplies, safe evacuation pathways, inaccessible warning systems, and inaccessible evacuation centres. People with disabilities and older persons do not appear to be at the forefront of humanitarian efforts despite international conventions, international humanitarian law, standards and guidelines of best practice of inclusion which are to be upheld even in times of conflict.
We are calling on all state actors to adhere to their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) at this time. Ukraine ratified the UNCRPD in February 2010 and the Convention continues to apply despite national emergency, war, or foreign occupation. Article 11 of the UNCRPD places an obligation on States to ensure the safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, conflict, humanitarian emergencies or natural disasters. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recognised that disabled people are often invisible in conflict situations and that this must be addressed and their rights protected.
As a result, it is imperative that accessible communication continues to be transmitted in times of crisis or war so that each member of society has up-to-date information on their crisis situation and can evacuate safely or take precautions as necessary. This includes the maintenance of personal communication channels to ensure connectivity with community and prevent isolation.
It is imperative that any humanitarian aid or emergency measures are inclusive and recognise the specific UN obligations of Ukraine towards persons with disabilities. The UNCRPD recognises that persons with disabilities and organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) are best placed to give a voice to the issues faced by persons with disabilities. Therefore, we call on state actors and humanitarian aid agencies to work closely with organisations led by people with disabilities, like ours, to address these issues, ensure the needs of people with disabilities are met and their rights protected.
Accessible transport must be provided for persons with disabilities who exercise their right to flee conflict and war to seek protection internally, or in neighbouring states. Those coordinating or providing support for evacuation must consider the access needs of people with disabilities and their supporters.
The issues currently faced by people with disabilities remaining invisible Russian aggression in Ukraine are stark.
Some of what our members/colleagues are experiencing include:
- Lack of the timely information about the situation in accessible formats for all persons with disabilities.
- Lack of the communication from the responsible state authorities: Ministry of the Social Policy and the President Advisor on the issues of Barrier-free Ukraine.
- Lack of safe evacuation pathways via accessible transportation.
- Inaccessible evacuation centres and bomb shelters.
- Lack of access to essential/lifesaving medical supplies, especially for persons with HIV/AIDS.
- Lack of shelter or refuge - bomb shelters are not equipped to meet the needs of many people with disabilities and supplies, including basic supplies such as food and blankets are running low.
- Once at the border the queues are long. Many of the officials who have experience working in this area have returned to fight.
- Some do not have adequate documentation and are experiencing legal issues on both sides of the border.
- Lack of information about the behavior in the situation of occupation.
We are calling on responsible actors to:
- Push on Ukrainian authorities who are responsible to act according to the international standards.
- Create effective coordination group/platform with OPDs for providing international support for Ukrainians with disabilities in emergencies.
- Humanitarian aid and resource allocation that is inclusive, beneficial, and accessible for people with disabilities.
- Waiver of identity documentation at EU borders in line with the EU’s temporary protection directive for ‘displaced persons’ or recognition of their immediate humanitarian requirement and need to flee.
- Coordinated efforts with refugee centres and OPD’s to ensure that those within Ukraine and those who cross borders are safe, nourished, given shelter, and access to healthcare.
- Particular attention needs to be given to those living in institutions who are isolated from their community and lack access to all kinds of supports including safe evacuation.
Guidelines and inclusion standards, practical tools and resources, and good practice examples to support older people or people with disabilities in the emergency response in Ukraine are all available here.
About Fight for Right
Fight for Right is an OPD advocating for the rights of people with disabilities in Ukraine. We work to ensure that every person with disabilities know their human rights and freely exercises them.
We work to:
- We are strengthening the community of people with disabilities in their point to become a powerful human rights movement.
- We are advocating for those changes in the legislation that is necessary for the free exercise of their rights.
- We are teaching human rights, non-discrimination, and inclusivity.
- We are making available the physical environment, information, webspace, and services.
- We are informing society about the values of human rights, non-discrimination and equality, inclusiveness, and the rights of people with disabilities.
 Disabled People’s Organisations are advocacy organisations of disabled people which work at the regional, national or international level to inform or change policies and ensure equality for people with disabilities.