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War on Ukraine: In the Outbreak of Wars Crisis, Persons with Disabilities Are Often Forgotten6 min read

War on Ukraine: In the Outbreak of Wars Crisis, Persons with Disabilities Are Often Forgotten

While anyone affected by a crisis needs help, persons with disabilities are especially at risk. Challenges created by emergencies and other risk situations are compounded for persons with disabilities by physical, communication, and other barriers.

Persons living with disabilities in war zones face a major challenge that has not been seen and reported, including accessing public transport, places of safety and shelters, and fleeing to safe areas.

Situations of armed conflict often force persons to flee areas when violence erupts. Persons with disabilities can be at higher risk of harm during the fighting.

Persons with disabilities living in conflict settings face an increased risk of injury, death, sexual violence, and other serious harm.

At times of crisis, persons with disabilities are vulnerable to violence and abandonment. Still, they also face significant difficulties obtaining basic services such as food, water, sanitation, and health care.

They often have difficulty getting aid because facilities are not designed to allow independent navigation by persons who are blind or use wheelchairs, and information is not provided in accessible, easy-to-understand formats.

Persons with physical disabilities may struggle to flee and seek shelter without assistance and access to assistive devices.

Persons who are blind or have low vision may require support from others to flee.

Persons with hearing, developmental, or intellectual disabilities often cannot hear, know about, or understand what occurs during attacks.

Giving protection in conflicts and crises should be a priority in humanitarian aid.

The plight of persons with disabilities goes unnoticed and unattended.

Previous wars and crises, the most recent of which was the Ukrainian crisis, demonstrated this through governments and aid agencies’ inability to deliver emergency relief to be inclusive when they provide services.

The breakdown of economic structures, health care, family and community support, transportation, and other infrastructure due to the conflict has increased the vulnerability of persons with disabilities. They found it more difficult to flee or be left behind, which made them more vulnerable to attack, as is happening now in Ukraine. There is a stigma issue in the humanitarian industry.

We should completely rethink how we’re doing things because this will be the norm for the foreseeable future in wars crises.

There is a need to ensure that persons with disabilities do not forget through working on operation accessible rescues extracts persons with disabilities and the elderly from war zones to safety.

More needs to be done to ensure that persons with disabilities – both mental and physical – are not left behind or forgotten during humanitarian crises.

The call for raising awareness and inclusion of persons with disabilities during humanitarian crises is an urgent necessity that must be worked on. Priority should be given to protecting the lives of persons with disabilities.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, specifically to Article 11, focused on (Situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies). This leads us as organizations, governments, and the international community to join forces to ensure the safety and protection of persons with disabilities during situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies. It is time to turn words into action.

Ukrainian immigrants crossing border and sitting and waiting for registration
Ukrainian immigrants crossing border and sitting and waiting for registration

Accessible Rescues and Inclusive Humanitarian Action

Persons with disabilities are denied their right to flee the violence because warnings, evacuation routes, and emergency information are not accessible. Sometimes persons with disabilities are deliberately targeted or used as human shields.

Efforts to accommodate persons with disabilities frequently ignore crisis preparedness and response.

Conflict and crisis-affected women and girls with disabilities face increased sexual and gender-based violence in and out of the home, especially those with intellectual and mental disabilities.

Inaccessible humanitarian assistance, including shelter, food, water, and medical support, can have a catastrophic impact on the health of persons with disabilities.

The loss of accessible rescue and assistive devices, caregivers, and protection networks due to displacement make persons with disabilities more dependent on others and at greater risk of exploitation.

The main barriers to accessing aid in crisis contexts appeared to be the lack of accessible information on those services and the difficulty in accessing the services themselves: lack of physical or financial access, lack of staff trained in disability, or distance from the services.

The European Disability Forum recently issued a statement calling governments to recognize their obligations. Specifically, the European Disability Forum calls for all parties to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in Ukraine by respecting: Their responsibilities under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), particularly Article 11 on situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies.

Designing universal access, far from being a costly proposition, can pay off handsomely.

Universal design and accessibility standards had to be incorporated as part of any emergency response by providing the support, tools, and resources to ensure that the persons with disabilities can facilitate, and improve their capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Information should also be available in “easy-to-read” formats or sign language.

The needs of persons with disabilities should be identified at the beginning of an emergency, not at its end. Moreover, setting up a standard, centralized data collection system to enhance their protection and assistance and creating community-based awareness programs to promote greater tolerance, respect, and understanding towards persons with disabilities in wars crisis.

Providing complete and equal access to mainstream services can be a game-changer for the marginalized population at the deep end of all crises.

We want to ensure that displaced persons with disabilities have full access to all durable solution options and objective information regarding durable solutions in an accessible and easy-to-understand format.

ICT accessibility is vital for persons with disabilities during a war crisis to help assess the damage, collect information, and deploy supplies.

Accessible communications and policies are necessary to mitigate conflict zones and become essential.

Accessible technology is critical to ensuring fast, effective, and competent field treatment of persons with disabilities.

Current satellite and cellular technology and personal communication networks permit communication in areas with a damaged or destroyed communication infrastructure.

Final Words:

Persons with disabilities are live in highly vulnerable situations in conflicts areas. They face multiple

intersecting forms of discrimination, including increased barriers to accessing support and life-saving services.

At Ruh Global IMPACT, we work hard to help corporations, governments, and NGOs address some of the world’s largest inclusion and accessibility problems. We are proud to be an approved vendor for The Valuable 500 and want to show corporations worldwide how to include our community of persons with disabilities.

Sadly, complex challenges are not always present in mainstream humanitarian debates.

We created Billion Strong to help bring together the 1.2 to 1.7 Billion Persons with Disabilities around the world. We are proud to have over 90 Country Disability Persons Organizations partners. Join our efforts by donating, writing an article, volunteering, and helping our efforts. Billion Strong is committed to supporting our global community by cooperating and coordinating with international organizations and the global community.
Imagine what we can do together. Let’s make the world work for all of us.

Candles on streets for peace in Ukraine, symbolising to stop the war, Stand with Ukraine, close-up
Candles on streets for peace in Ukraine, symbolising to stop the war, Stand with Ukraine, close-up

About the Authors

Nabil Eid

Nabil Eid

Director of Global ICT Accessibility and Inclusion, Ruh Global IMPACT 

His role as the CIO is to help set and lead the ICT accessibility strategy for Ruh Global IMPACT. Nabil has held several positions and worked with numerous NGOs, civil society networks, UN agencies, governments, private sector, and grassroots organizations to successfully create positive change at global, regional, and national levels.

With 20+ years of experience in disability inclusion strategies and ICT4D marginalized communities. Providing counseling, research, evaluation & monitoring, and ICT accessibility solutions and assistive technology services. Author of 8 books about disability inclusion and ICT accessibility

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