There are currently almost 3 million persons registered as having a disability in Ukraine; however, numbers are likely to be higher as there is a lack of reliable and detailed statistics. The COVID-19 pandemic created many new barriers for people with disabilities while equally amplifying existing ones. Nevertheless, the war with Russia presents new and more complex challenges, and the need for support is great and urgent.
The devastating situation in Ukraine has become increasingly difficult for people living in the war-torn country and for those who have been displaced because of the conflict. Persons with disabilities are particularly affected since such conditions exacerbate existing challenges.
Kiril Sharapov, Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University has been researching the impact of the pandemic on people with disabilities in Ukraine in partnership with local universities and organisations. Originally, the group was motivated by a concerning lack of research projects that explored the point of view of persons with disabilities. They aimed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on them by providing guidance and practical recommendations to organisations that wanted to help.
The participatory research project worked with organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) in Ukraine that collected data by interviewing people with disabilities and their households, exploring the pandemic’s effects on their everyday lives. The findings released today focus on the perspectives of the OPDs; after surveying 108 of them, the findings were presented to disability experts and activists who were asked to comment and create a set of recommendations.
The recommendations urge international donors to prioritise organisations ‘of’ persons with disabilities over organisations ‘for’, in these dark times, and allocate funding to cover organisational costs in addition to supporting short-term events and projects.
Going forward, the researchers strongly suggest that public authorities in Ukraine at all levels of governance recognise and support OPDs as key actors in ensuring and protecting the rights of persons they are taking care of. Additionally, it is advised that OPDs are regularly approached and consulted by decision-making bodies, when planning and sustaining the continuity of basic life support services in the event of future public emergencies.
Lastly, it is recommended that the government works in close cooperation with OPDs once peace is restored. The two parties should develop a rapid response protocol to establish a mechanism for rapid translation, interpretation, and dissemination of time-critical information in the event of any future public emergencies. The OPDs should receive allocated funding and tax exemptions, and civic participation should be encouraged among local communities to facilitate support and partnership between OPDs and volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders.
To read The Impact Of COVID-19 On People With Disabilities In Ukraine: Perspectives Of Organisations Of People With Disabilities (Working Paper) in English, please visit: https://doi.org/10.17869/enu.2022.2849863. To read it in Ukrainian, please visit: https://doi.org/10.17869/enu.2022.2849877.