United Nations message on autism and coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Aspendos
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31 Mar 2020, 7:31 pm

The United Nations redesigned its webpage for World Autism Awareness Day. The new link is: https://www.un.org/en/observances/autism-day

There's no mention on the new page of the WAAD 2020 theme the UN had announced earlier in March ("The Transition to Adulthood").

The message of the UN Secretary-General focusses on coronavirus (COVID-19) instead.

(Note that an earlier version of the message was also removed. It is still available here: https://www.un.or.id/statements/273-mes ... reness-day)

Here's the full text of the message:

Quote:
Secretary-General's Message

On World Autism Awareness Day, we recognize and celebrate the rights of persons with autism. This year’s observance takes place in the midst of a public health crisis unlike any other in our lifetimes — a crisis that places persons with autism at disproportionate risk as a result of the coronavirus and its impact on society.

Persons with autism have the right to self-determination, independence and autonomy, as well as the right to education and employment on an equal basis with others. But the breakdown of vital support systems and networks as a result of COVID-19 exacerbates the obstacles that persons with autism face in exercising these rights. We must ensure that a prolonged disruption caused by the emergency does not result in rollbacks of the rights that persons with autism and their representative organizations have worked so hard to advance.

Universal human rights, including the rights of persons with disabilities, must not be infringed upon in the time of a pandemic. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that their response includes persons with autism. Persons with autism should never face discrimination when seeking medical care. They must continue to have access to the support systems required to remain in their homes and communities through times of crisis, instead of facing the prospect of forced institutionalization.

We all have a role to play in ensuring that the needs of people who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are met during this difficult period. Information about precautionary measures must be provided in accessible formats. We must also recognize that when schools employ online teaching, students with non-standard ways of learning may be at a disadvantage. The same applies to the workplace and working remotely. Even in these unpredictable times, we must commit to consulting persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, and ensuring that our non-traditional ways of working, learning, and engaging with each other, as well as our global response to the coronavirus, are inclusive of and accessible to all people, including persons with autism.

The rights of persons with autism must be taken into account in the formulation of all responses to the COVID-19 virus. On World Autism Awareness Day, let us stand together, support each other and show solidarity with persons with autism.

— António Guterres



kraftiekortie
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02 Apr 2020, 1:38 pm

Thanks for posting this.



IsabellaLinton
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02 Apr 2020, 2:04 pm

It would be nice if they also mandated economic stimulus aid for autistic people during COVID.

At present, many countries around the world offer no financial aid for the COVID crisis to persons with disabilities, if they didn't have a job to lose.



cosine
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02 Apr 2020, 9:27 pm

i support this crisis being the opportunity to shift the world economy to one where each nation's government provides a Universal Basic Income at a level suitable for a decent, if minimal, level of living including housing, food, and clothing for the entire family that lives together.

UBI inherintly stabilizes the economy. more people will not quit their basic spending out of fear of losing jobs if the economy has a dip. otherwise a small dip becomes a big dip or even a small recession because many peopl hold back their spending.

studies have tried experimental UBI in several places. it turns out that very few people quit their jobs or declined to seek a job.

everyone 18 years or older should get UBI, the employed, the unemployed, the retired, the young who legally leave their parents before age 18. and that's in addition to free education, free housing and free healthcare.

did i forget anything? those with disabilities might get more through appropriate programs. i think of being NT as a disability.



Aspendos
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02 Apr 2020, 9:48 pm

@cosine, full support for a Universal Basic Income. Switzerland held a public vote on this a few years back and, of course, rejected it. We are a direct democracy, but people here have a tendency to vote against their own interests. Now, just a few years later, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs or source of income (entrepreneurs and the self-employed) and the state has to provide for them, at a much higher rate than a UBI would have cost. Maybe this will change some people's minds. But the government's focus is on stabilizing the economy, including small and medium enterprises and the self-employed. So while disability benefits and welfare have been cut for years because arguably there was no money, in the crisis the state is able, all of a sudden, to distribute massive credits to any business that asks, with no controls or risk assessment, paid out flat in 30 minutes from application, backed by state guarantee. @IsabellaLinton, far from providing additional aid to disabled people, as many of these firms will default, and many more people receive unemployment benefits or welfare, it is clear already that there will be further cuts in the social sector and to the very limited funds now available to many disabled persons, including autistics. I assume it will be the same in other countries.

Regarding the UN Secretary-General's message: It is unfortunate that the UN still insists on using "persons with autism", rather than "autistic persons", preferred by most actually autistic adults. The Secretary-General's message also does not sufficiently take into account that the coronavirus highlights and intensifies the different ways in which persons with disabilities, including autistic persons, are still left behind and excluded. For some autistic people (and others), 'social distancing' from their caregivers and personal assistants is simply not an option. On the other hand, for many autistic adults (and older persons) 'social distancing', isolation, and loneliness may be nothing new, it's what they experience every day. Anecdotal reports suggest that autistic children, who may struggle with physically attending a mainstream school due to anxiety, sensory overload, or bullying, cope very well with remote schooling. Indeed, voluntary online options for autistic students (such as following classes per webcam, at least part of the time) have been advocated by autistic-led organizations for many years as a way to advance inclusive education. Then again, those of us who are in psychiatric institutions or care facilities are at a heightened risk of abuse, abandonment, and neglect when visitors are prohibited. The Secretary-General's message fails to specify how states will guarantee our rights and survival and prevent disability-related discrimination in times of crisis. What concrete measures are states, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations taking to ensure that all coronavirus responses are disability-inclusive, inclusive of all disability constituencies, and of autistic persons in their diversity?

I recommend you also read the coronavirus statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities of 17 March 2020, "COVID-19: Who is protecting the people with disabilities?":

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25725&LangID=E

On 26 March 2020, the World Health Organization released a briefing to key stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, their families and caregivers, governments, health workers, service providers, and the wider community, on "Disability considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak":

https://www.who.int/who-documents-detail/disability-considerations-during-the-covid-19-outbreak

On 31 March 2020, the International Disability Alliance (IDA) issued an open letter to the Director-General of the WHO calling on him to take immediate action against discrimination of persons with disabilities in accessing emergency services, such as denial of treatment due to "dependency":

http://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/sites/default/files/ida_letter_to_who_march_31_2020.pdf

"Joint Statement: Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19" by the Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on behalf of the Committee, and the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility, posted on 1 April 2020:

https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2020/04/Joint_Statement_Persons_with_Disabilities_COVID19.pdf

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) also published a guidance note, "COVID-19 response: Considerations for Children and Adults with Disabilities":

https://www.unicef.org/disabilities/files/COVID-19_response_considerations_for_people_with_disabilities_190320.pdf

European Disability Forum (EDF), "Open letter to leaders at the EU and in EU countries: COVID-19 – Disability inclusive response", dated 13 March 2020:

http://www.edf-feph.org/newsroom/news/open-letter-leaders-eu-and-eu-countries-covid-19-disability-inclusive-response

Joint statement by regional and international organizations of persons with psychosocial disabilities, such as the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP), of 26 March 2020, making recommendations to states on "COVID-19 and persons with psychosocial disabilities", including those who are institutionalized:

https://dk-media.s3.amazonaws.com/AA/AG/chrusp-biz/downloads/357738/COVID19-and-persons-with-psychosocial-disabilities-final_version.pdf



Dear_one
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03 Apr 2020, 3:43 am

Nice words, but it takes an expert to not discriminate against us. Around here, hospital administrators can't even imagine someone with no family to help. I went in 3 years ago with a simple fracture of my thumb, and they never did set it, but ruined my general health and budget to run up the bill to the government.



cosine
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03 Apr 2020, 6:07 pm

it appears that here in USA "social distancing" is not separating the disabled from their caregivers, at least not in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers (pretty much the same thing, here). but this might be putting many at risk. the news has many stories of outbreaks at nursing homes, including deaths attributed to COVID-19.



cosine
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03 Apr 2020, 6:13 pm

medical advice stories on TV here generally end with statements like "see your doctor ..." despite nearly half the population not "having" their own doctor. so they end up in ER or one of those small emergency service places and get terrible advice from a different doctor or nurse practitioner each time.



Jakki
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03 Apr 2020, 8:43 pm

Dear_one wrote:
Nice words, but it takes an expert to not discriminate against us. Around here, hospital administrators can't even imagine someone with no family to help. I went in 3 years ago with a simple fracture of my thumb, and they never did set it, but ruined my general health and budget to run up the bill to the government.

This easy for myself to imagine having no family to help . and sad these situations exist with government and medical facilities. :(


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Aspendos
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04 Apr 2020, 9:26 am

@cosine, in Switzerland people are told by the government not to go see a doctor unless they are very severely ill with COVID-19-like symptoms or it's an emergency. This leads to doctor's offices being empty and most health-care staff, even at hospitals, off work, waiting for a massive wave of coronavirus patients that so far, three weeks down the line, has not materialized. Yesterday it was reported that more than 20% less people are being treated for stroke now, even though there's no good explanation why people would suffer a stroke less often than before, other than people, not just autistics, not seeking out a doctor anymore when they're sick (or no one noticing stroke victims who are isolated in their own apartments).

Outbreaks at nursing homes seem to be frequent here too.



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04 Apr 2020, 11:23 pm

It's nice to have an organization say positive things about us for a change.


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