Each year Human Rights Day is observed on the 21st of March. It reminds us of the Sharpeville massacre, one of the most heinous acts of the infringement of human rights in South Africa’s history. Now, in the era of COVID-19, it is also vital that everyone’s human rights are met. This includes access to information, adequate healthcare, access to education and many other aspects that may fall through the cracks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) wishes to highlight the human rights of persons with intellectual disabilities (ID). In South Africa, the month of March commemorates Human Rights Day and Intellectual Disability Awareness Month. Therefore, this Human Rights Day we wish to raise awareness about the human rights of persons with ID, particularly during COVID-19.
This Human Rights Day it is important that we consider how we disseminate life-saving information to ensure that everyone understands how to protect themselves during the pandemic. By recognising some of the challenges faced by persons with ID and putting measures in place to address these challenges, we uphold the rights of persons with ID, for example ensuring that the right to access to information (in this case related to educational materials on COVID-19) is protected and realised by all parties working and providing services to these individuals. The United Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – which South Africa is a signatory to – states that countries should “promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information” as well as “State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure access for persons with disabilities to health services.”
In order to disseminate life-saving information – we need to consider everyone and potential developmental difficulties which may make taking in information difficult. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends translating information into Easy-to-Read formats so that they are accessible to persons with ID. Research shows that Easy-to-Read formats are effective in relaying information based on healthcare to persons with ID. Easy-to-Read makes use of symbols, pictures and photos relating to the specific writing standards.
This Human Rights Day SAFMH urges government and private entities to invest in programmes that educate, support and ensure that the human rights of persons with ID are upheld, like everyone else’s’. These actions include making information accessible so persons with ID can make decisions for themselves.
SAFMH commits to advocate for the rights of persons with ID in South Africa and we urge the public, government, private entities, and civil societies to join us in our campaigns. It is important for all us of to consider the human rights of marginalised people because it affects us all.
Photo by John Paul Henry on Unsplash