Disabled People in Ukraine

April 23, 2022
by Rachel

The UN has warned that the lives of 2.7 million disabled people in Ukraine are at risk.

Many disabled people including autistic children and young people who could not make it to borders are trapped in their homes and have no access to medication or food and other life sustaining resources .

Very few recorded Asylum Seekers are disabled, indicating most were forced to survive inside the war-torn country. 

The United Nations has warned that the lives of 2.7 million disabled people in Ukraine are at risk due to Russia’s invasion. 

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities statement said disabled people “have limited or no access to emergency information, shelters and safe havens, and many have been separated from their support networks.”

It added that “there are ongoing reports that many disabled people, including children, are trapped or abandoned in their homes, residential care institutions and orphanages, with no access to life-sustaining medications, oxygen supplies, food, water, sanitation, support for daily living and other basic facilities.”

The committee also notes that disabled women are at a heightened risk of rape and sexual violence by Russian forces.

In recent days a Russian air strike hit the Oskil psychoneurological boarding school with a direct hit. Sixty-three of the provisions 330 residents were evacuated, while the fate of the other 267 is currently unknown. A sizeable number of whom are autistic. 

While more than 4.8 million people have fled Ukraine due to the war, the UN committee notes that very few of these people — or even those who are internally displaced — are disabled, indicating few have been able to leave their homes. 

One of our Sparkle Sheffield partners – Equalities and Human Rights U.K. (based in Sheffield) whom we are supporting in their Humanitarian endeavours – have been supporting the International Disability Alliance and the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, helping  to prioritise and to evacuate people has highlighted that many of the organisations making provision for Asylum Seekers are not equipped to deal with disabled people and older people also whom too are greatly suffering. 

They have been calling on all International as well as Ukrainian state actors to adhere to their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which was ratified in 2010. The Convention continues to apply, despite national emergency, armed conflict, or foreign occupation, as Article 11 of the UNCRPD covers.

Fight for Right Ukraine who are a group of disabled people and their families in Ukraine have made it very clear that “There are disabled people trapped, there are disabled people, including children, dying; we have been left behind. We have been trying to help ourselves, but we need help. We need accessible evacuation efforts prioritised for Disabled people” Yuliia Sachuk, the Chairperson for Fight for Right Ukraine, shares.

We, with our partners Equalities and Human Rights U.K. and Autism Union will continue to advocate for disabled children and their families left behind and those crossing borders, as well as endeavouring to help them in other ways too.

As Chrissy Meleady CEO of Equalities and Human Rights U.K. points out, “Ukrainian autistic children, young people and adults and their families, as well as other disabled people and their families are at increased risk and need every help they can get. 

With Sparkle Sheffield and Autism Union we are also supporting the efforts of Autism Europe who are working closely with Autism organisations in Ukraine and elsewhere through us collectively contributing to…

– Preparing for and providing support to autistic children, young people and their families coming into the U.K.

– Supporting the provision of culturally appropriate and Autism friendly interface and online services to help autistic people deal with trauma and the high level of stress they are experiencing in Ukraine and as Asylum Seekers – these services being made available in spoken and written Ukrainian, Russian, Belorussian and Polish.

– Helping with preparing organisations to help autistic Asylum Seeker people , including children and young people and their families across the nation with organising translation and interpretation, transportation, avenues of raising awareness of and access to autism therapies, trauma therapy, school and other educational provisions that can meet the needs and requirements of autistic people, leisure activities, peer support for children/adults/parents, childcare/respite, offering jobs, help with jobseeking, help with applying for benefits and other paperwork.

– Preparing information materials to raise awareness in public authorities and other services about autism  and the the autistic community of Ukraine and their experiences (past and present) –  including organisations in our region welcoming  Ukrainian Asylum Seekers. It should be noted that many young adults and older adults who are autistic may never have had an official diagnosis of autism in Ukraine itself due to past policy there, despite them being evidently Autistic and authorities and support organisations the breadth of the U.K. should not ignore these people and their needs not be demanding of an official autism diagnosis because they may not be able to produce one even though they are autistic. 

– Working with partner universities and industry with regard to designing  information in alternative/augmentative formats to help autistic people, deal with the change and transitions being foisted upon them and with their orientation into the U.K. too.

– Joining with others in raising awareness efforts and advocating in the U.K. and across Europe to address the urgent needs of the autistic community and their families in Ukraine and abroad.”