Majority of calls to human rights group related to disability discrimination

Pandemic caused ‘devastating’ rollback of services for people with disabilities

Discrimination against people with disabilities accounted for more than half of all calls to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) last year.

The commission’s annual report for 2020, published on Wednesday, says its “Your Rights” information service received 1,732 queries from the public last year, of which 13 per cent (221) were directly related to the impact of the pandemic on rights.

In her commentary on the report, chief commissioner Sinéad Gibney said during the pandemic people with disabilities “saw a rollback of services that has been devastating, causing stagnation or indeed regression for some, and extreme isolation for many others”.

“Children with specific educational needs were impacted by the switch to digital which left them, in many instances, without access to appropriate education.”


She said those in or at risk of poverty had to deal with a tougher crisis than others. “Poor living conditions, especially overcrowding, have made it harder to adhere to public health measures. Many are also on the wrong side of the digital divide, making the switch to online services, which eased the experience for so many of us, limited or sometimes impossible.


“People living in direct provision similarly found that living conditions created greater exposure to the virus. Our prison population fared well in terms of infection but bore the flipside of those increased restrictions and the distress that this caused.”

By age, the largest proportion of calls (43 per cent) came from people between 19 and 40 years, with 27 per cent from those aged 41 to 60 years, and, 20 per cent from those aged 61 to 80. Some 9 per cent of calls were from children, aged under 18 and 1 per cent from the 81 years and older cohort.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times