On March 10, 2022, the Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration held a webinar where Fight for Right (FFR) provided an update on the situation for Ukrainians with disabilities. Watch the full webinar and click through to read the full transcript.
Transcript of Update on Ukraine Webinar
>> HEATHER: Thank you all for joining the World Institute on
Disability and the Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration for
today’s webinar. I’m Heather Duncan with the World Institute on
Disability and I’m going to give you a few housekeeping things to note.
Today there will be ASL and captioning. You can look at the captioning in
Zoom and I’m also entering the Streamtext link into the chat if you would like
to use that.
Cameras and microphones are disabled for attendees.
If you like to make a comment or ask a question, you can do so in the chat or
through the Q&A. There will be a Q&A towards the end of today’s
webinar. With that, let’s go ahead and get started. I’m going to
turn it over to Marcie Roth from the World Institute on Disability.
>> MARCIE: Hello, everyone. I’m Marcie Roth, Executive Director
of the World Institute on Disability and a Founder of the Global Alliance for
Disaster Resource Acceleration. I’m a disabled woman and I’m speaking to
you from the unseated land of the Piscataway, now called Maryland in the United
States. My pronouns are she and her.
We are all here because the rush an government has invaded Ukraine, a free
and Democratic country. In particular, we are here because the resulting
need for Ukrainians to flee is leaving millions of Ukrainians with disabilities
behind, both trapped in their homes and for hundreds of thousands of disabled
children and adults trapped in orphanages, institutions psychiatric hospitals
and incarcerated facilities. We are here in support of Fight for Right.
A Ukrainian disabled women‑led Disability Rights organization who we will hear
from soon. We all want you to know that they need our support and
partnership now and in the future. And, our Global Alliance for Disaster
Resource Acceleration also needs your support so that we can continue to
support disabled ‑‑ disability‑led, Disabled Persons Organizations,
disabled‑led organizations in all crisis and disasters to follow, this includes
the Global South and the global North to ensure that those disability‑led
organizations aren’t alone and aren’t marginalized and left behind so that they
can continue to serve their whole community. I want to give special
thanks to our GADRA, Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration
founders circle, the folks from Bristol‑Myers Squibb, AT&T and a
particular shout out to our President, Suzanne, who is from AT&T and Tina
Marie from Bristol‑Myers Squibb. Thank you both very much and thanks
to all who are making it possible for us to support the folks from fight to
right and disability‑led organizations supporting Ukrainians with disabilities.
I’m going to turn first to our GADRA co‑founders from The Partnership for
Inclusive Disaster Strategies.
>> This is German. Thank you, Marcie. I’m a man with a
disability and alongside me is.
>> SHAYLIN: My name is Shaylin and I am a young woman with non‑apparent disabilities. I use
she/her pronounce and we are the co‑executive Directors of The Partnership for
Inclusive Disaster Strategies. We are located on the stolen land of the
Lenape people, known as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As Marcie
introduced us, we are with The Partnership and we are the only U.S.‑based
disability‑led organization with a focused mission on equity for People with
Disabilities and people with access and functional needs throughout all
planning for grant services and procedures before, during and after disasters
>> German: We will be brief as we are here to hear from our
colleagues, Fight for Right, as we do at The Partnership along GADRA in every
disaster. We quickly connect with disability‑led organizations,
organizations led by people with disabilities. At this time, our fell
owes and focal point for the Ukrainian crisis within hours quickly connected us
with Fight for Right and Yulia and her team have been around for years doing
education around the convention of persons with disabilities in Ukraine
fighting for the right of persons with disabilities in Ukraine in the area and
now, weeks before the crisis began, they began establishing a hotline as we
have a similar one in the United States knowing it is people with disabilities
that know what to do best and how to best support our fellow persons with
disabilities. Without further adieu and why we are all here today, I’ll
pass it off to Yulia and we’ll get to meet the rest of the team supporting Fight
for Right and Ukrainians with disabilities.
>> Yulia: Good day, everyone. I’m Yulia. I’m Head of Fight
for Right organization of people with disabilities and also coordinator of the
national Disability Rights Network in the Ukraine. And also I am one of
the participants of the Obama leadership program Europe 2022. And
actually, I use she/her pronounce and actually I’m disability right activist
for more than 15 years in the Ukraine. Our organization is working for
implementation of the U.N. Convention on the rights of people with disabilities
in Ukraine. Month before the war when the world was discussed and
possible invasion of Ukraine, knowing that rights of people ‑‑ situations
of people with disabilities could be very difficult, I started the process of
finding support and coordinating our efforts to be prepared for possible
invasion. In this regard, I appealed to our state authorities, to
different International organizations and I explored that even we have
International Standards, but there is no coordinating efforts towards possible
Together, with my classmate from national University of ‑‑
Center for Disability law and policy, we launched go‑fund‑me to raise money for
supporting people with disabilities to provide psychological support. At
the same time, we collect different results and information trying to build
this platform for response in the situation of possible war. And for me,
it’s very important that we received ‑‑ we were like community of people
with disabilities who lead in role and to very often we didn’t receive enough
support and understanding and cooperation. I’m very thankful for World
Institute on Disability, for Marcie, Anna and other colleagues who supported
us, because in the first day of in ‑‑ the war, when I personally was in
bomb shelter. When my colleagues and friends were very in stressful
situation, you continue to work to develop this platform and now we are a group
of ‑‑ I think 25‑30 volunteers, who took this responsibility without
sufficient attention and support from International leading
organizations. And we trying to build professional network and to help
people with disabilities to evacuate. The main problems we see is the
lack, as I mentioned before, of coordinating efforts on the national and International
levels. Also a lack of accessible transportation, information in
accessible areas. Lack of attention to the situation to the people with
severe disabilities, with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities,
especially in closed institutions. And at the same time, I’m really proud
of our community of people with disabilities. Ukraine ans and volunteers
from abroad, because now our platform is really International. And I’m
really thankful for joining us for supporting us. We, together with you
saved a lot of lives of people with disabilities who now are in safety and we
will continue to work to help people to evacuate, to receive support, to
receive psychological support, to know ‑‑ and to know that somebody is
worried about life. And for so many people lives with disabilities have
the same value as people without disabilities.
I really ‑‑ I appreciate our team because I
see how everyone works 24‑7 trying to fill this gap in International
instruments, in national ‑‑ lack of coordination and systemic work to help
and support people with disabilities in the Ukraine. Thank you, and I
appreciate our team today can present our work and our results of common work
and I’d like to give ‑‑ who helped us, my friend and colleague for many
years and now she helps us to work in advocacy because as I mentioned before,
there are a lot of gaps in the national legislation and regulation when we talk
about evacuation of Ukrainians with disabilities.
>> Hello, everyone, I’m helping Fight for Rights now with advocacy and
legal advice. My pronounce are she and her. And as you already
mentioned, because nobody was ready for this war, we have definitely quite a
few gaps in our legislation and the wartime legislation as well, that prevent
from timely evacuation of people with disabilities that we are trying to deal
with at the moment. We have low mobilization in peaceful time with a lot
of exceptions, which exempt us from the military service. Temporarily
during the peaceful time, which men are exempted from the military service
forever, during peaceful time and the same goes for the wartime.
Immediately after the war had started, our President showed general
mobilization and this decree lists a number of man‑aged 18‑60 who are exempted
from being ‑‑ to leave Ukraine. All other abled men age 18‑60 are
forbidden to leave Ukraine right now. Though these categories of people
who can travel abroad with their families or alone, even during the wartime are
quite broad. At the moment, we have a situation when our border control service
lacks clear and precise instructions on how to deal with all these categories
of men, types of documents. They should have with them and show at the
border control office. Taking the creation of people from Ukraine is
really not safe. And we have numerous border controls. Ukraine is
quite a big country. There are quite different approaches to these men
and how to say ‑‑ general house protects. As Fight for Rights,
together with other Human Rights NGOs, we are trying to do two things. To
solve each individual complaint as much as we could, attracting assistance of
lawyers, NGO and free legal aid we have in the country, to consult people on
per‑case basis. At the same time, we gather a coalition and our NGO
partners all Human Rights NGOs to kind of discuss and advocate the changing to
the legislation because we understand that dealing with each individual case is
okay, it’s needed. It’s urgent. What we need is to establish enough
and clear and precise rules just to mitigate the situation. So our
internal advocacy efforts are now focused on the state border control service
and also the Ministry of War to ensure that they work on this regulation and
they control the border control points and officers and quickly and effectively
react to this different situation with men with disabilities refuse from
leaving Ukraine. At the same time with our International Partners, we are
trying to research and build a case for evacuation of the institutions, the
closed institutions, both for children and adults that we have in Ukraine where
people with disabilities are living. We are exploring these possibilities
and again trying to kind of build the legislation and the rules and
instructions for these cases to be effective.
That’s it. I will stop here.
>> Avery: Thank you, I’m Avery, my pronounce are she/her. First
and foremost, I’m Yulia’s friend and I’m currently in Ireland also getting my
master’s degree alongside Yulia in International and comparative disability law
and policy. Right now I’m working as the external coordinator for Fight
for Right since that was necessary gap that must be filled in unfolding of
events that occurred. But, today I’m going to talk mostly about
institutions and priorities for Fight for Right and the external coordination
efforts that have been happening. Building off what was just said about
institutions, we are very concerned about what is happening in institutions
right now. So there are varied reports on the pre conditions on
institutions in Ukraine and varied reports on the number of individuals in
institutions in Ukraine. There was a U.N. complaint recently about the
institutions and that is definitely worth looking at for those of you who are
interested in engaging on this effort. But that reflects a big concern
pre‑existing before the war and even more so now. We are receiving
reports from many angles, some of which are hard to verify, that there are
attacks and targeted attacks on institutions on hospitals, and humanitarian aid
is vitally needed. We don’t know for the large part, if these
institutions, these orphanages, among many others, have access to food, have
access to water, energy, staffing. There have been reports that staff
have been leaving and that there is grave situation occurring especially in the
institutions that are in urban areas that are under direct attack or focused
As mentioned before, the difficulties with the emergency
legislation and the way that that legislation will be interpreted is definitely
something that must be focused on, particularly when it comes to trying to
cross the border, but an immediate need is trying to get institutions and
groups of individuals in those institutions to safer places even if it means
moving in a different position in Ukraine. What is needed is very much
contacts with these institutions, but beyond that, we need to trigger the
system of humanitarian aid to address specifically what is going on in
institutions. We are getting calls here and there but we are searching
very much for these institutions to try to assist in any way that we can as a
group of mobilized volunteers.
Before I move on, I just want to reiterate other
priorities coming out of our efforts as an internal and external system Fight
for Right and the entire organization that existed prior to the war and now all
of our external partners. Chiefly we want to focus on connections to other NGOs
who are doing evacuations, connections to accessible transport inside of
Ukraine, which is still largely missing. And we’ll talk more about that.
We’re looking for connections to NGOs who have the ability to provide sustained
accessible support at border areas, particularly leads to NGOs, initiatives or
even private persons who can provide short and long term accessible housing and
the areas specifically that we need additional help are in Poland, Romania,
Slovakia and Moldova. Please get in contact with us if that sounds like a
group you might be in contact with. Again, that would be accessible
support, housing, at the border regions. We are looking for accessible
legal support as was previously mentioned, specifically to share with the
community of individuals who are reaching out requesting assistance from us,
which you’ll hear about shortly. We are looking again for connections to
institutions for reports that we can share so we can create a solid unified
effort with other NGOs to call and act to the best of our ability where there
are gaps but to call for action from humanitarian aid, International
humanitarian aid in this area.
We are also welcome any other mental health resources
that we can share with those who are calling for help right now and immediately
might not be asking for mental health support but we know that it is something
that will be needed. Finally, the best way to support us right now is our
go‑fund‑me and please do continue to share. I’m going to pass it off to
Anna who is going to talk more about the cases we are receiving daily and the
gaps we are trying to fill.
>> Anna: Thank you, Avery. Hi, everyone. I’m Anna
Landry. My pronouns are she and her. I’m based here in London and
right now I’m acting as The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies,
Ukraine crisis focal point. The Partnership began to support Fight for
Right on cases as of last Sunday. So only 11 days ago. And since
then, we have received over 114 cases of people with disabilities but requested
our help in evacuating with 70 of those cases still in progress. I’m very
proud of our team to share that we, with our small amount of resources and
personnel, have successfully evacuated at least 90 individuals with
disabilities and their loved ones. And I also want to stress that these
efforts have been really grassroots with a really small group of volunteers,
who have been working around the clock in time zones ranging from the U.S. to
here in London, to in Ukraine itself, to save these lives.
As Avery and some of the other speakers have
shared, we as two small organizations are simply not equipped to manage
evacuations of people with disabilities in a conflict environment. But
because of the lack of attention to this issue, we have stepped in and I’d like
to kind of tell you what we are seeing here. The overall trend has been
that there is an assumption in humanitarianism, the field as a whole and what
we are seeing here in Ukraine, that movement is a proxy for
vulnerability. But what we are seeing here is that many people can’t
move, including people with disabilities. They have trouble
evacuating. They have trouble leaving. So, they aren’t able to
access the humanitarian aid that is now being provided to rev geese and
internally displaced persons ‑‑ refugees. Because these people are
not able to become displaced and get there. So, many of these people with
disabilities are simply not being addressed by the current approach to this
In Ukraine that’s 2.7 million people. And we in our
cases are hearing from a lot of them. I’m going to briefly reiterate the
biggest trends in the cases that we have currently in our database. As
some of the other speakers have mentioned. So our first biggest need has
been transportation within Ukraine going from people’s houses to a border point.
We have struggled to find accessible transportation, especially for people who
need transport for their wheelchair or need to be transported in a
stretcher. And second, in our cases, we have seen the issue that Irina
shared of disabled men being denied exit at the borders and we are still trying
to find systemic, legal solution for that in order to make sure that they can
exit. And third, we have been struggling to get disability accessible
transportation, housing and other resources for our cases in neighboring
countries once they exit Ukraine. We found that most existing aid and
settlement resources are not inclusive. For example, one of our biggest
problems is that buses from border points in Poland to refugee Registration
centers are not wheelchair accessible.
And then finally as Avery shared, we are really seeking
more information about people in institutions. We have a few cases of
institutionalized folks who we haven’t been able to help and we are looking for
ways to do that. We think this is a really neglected area that the
International community really needs to address. I’m now going to turn it
over to Irina, our amazing case lead. She came onboard this past week and
has done an unbelievable job in increasing our efficiency and our capacity to
evacuate people. So go ahead Irina.
>> IRINA: Hello. I’m very thankful for so kind words. My
pronounce are she and her. And I will talk a little bit about what
challenges do we have now for people in the areas under constant rocket
fire. And the most vulnerable groups of course are those people who need
special transportation vehicle to leave the dangerous area. We are
talking about ambulances with electricity sockets to plug ventilators in for
persons who need to be traveling lying down. This is our major challenge
right now to find this kind of transportation to meet the needs of people who
requested our help. And other issue that is really hard right now is the
ability of Russian troops to keep a cease‑fire and to provide green corridors
in the areas where the military action is constantly ongoing. So, the
people with disabilities are majorly placed in the hostage position in this
area because nobody can access safely meeting points from where transportation
for evacuated people are provided. And other cases that ‑‑ we
receive a lot of help from charity organizations, also I’m following the leads
with the municipal authorities. Of course they are not helping enough as
we wanted them to help but they are trying and sometimes when we have a team of
case managers who can access this context and can provide them information of
people with disabilities that need evacuation. They work in these cases
and this we are trying to provide right now. And of course this is our
main priority right now to get as much people as we can to safety and to
provide them with accessible housing at the point of their destination.
Also not to lose anyone in this long run. I’m still in Ukraine. I’m
still working in the field. I hope that we will be able to evacuate
persons especially in the hotspots as soon as possible. Thank you.
>> MARCIE: I just want to express my own personal gratitude for the
leadership of the Fight for Right team and for all who are supporting them and
all who have made the time to be here with us today and to hear from
them. I am also really pleased that our founder at the World Institute on
Disability and now a Board Member Emeritus of the World Institute on
Disability, and frequently called the mother of Disability Rights, and many,
many other things in her role as an International Disability Rights leader and
I’m also grateful to be able to call her my friend. Judy, I know folks
are really looking forward to hearing from you.
>> Judy: First of all, I really like to start out by saying how
traumatized many of us are by what is going on in Ukraine. And these
words are trite, but our hearts really go out to all of you, your family, your
friends, and I know that each one of you that is working on this situation,
whether or not you’re from the Ukraine, are experiencing emotional impact and
one of the previous speakers, I think might have been Avery, mentioned earlier
the fact that people being able to get some mental health support is going to
be really critical, and I completely agree. One aspect of today’s
meeting, which I think is very important, is hearing from all of you who are
doing direct work in this area. And unfortunately, I would like to say
that many of the issues that you’re discussing are really not surprising.
Our countries have not, in many cases, have appropriate laws to deal with
things like housing and accessibility, or accessible transportation. So
the stuff that exists at the country level is frequently not accessible.
And so really, looking at how we can do workarounds, which I’m sure you’re all
thinking about, is very important.
In the area of transportation, whether or not there are
vehicles where a wooden ramp could be made to push people into those vehicles,
I don’t want to get into problem‑solving with all of you because you’re much
more engaged on a day‑to‑day basis; but we have to look at alternatives because
what we need is not what we have. So we have to look at other ways of
Plus, of course, the fact that many of the people that
we’re talking about are actually able to physically walk and move around, but
will need other kinds of support services like Sign Language interpreters or
people that support individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities
or blindness or whatever it may be.
So for me, coordination is critical in looking at the
myriad of organizations that are working in this area. So we are going to
be hearing from UNHCR and the European Disability Forum and the International
Disability Rights Office at the Department of State. There are other
organizations like Disability Rights International, which I assume you’re
working with, but they have been focusing on issues around institutions and de‑institutionalization
for many, many years now and are definitely doing some work in Ukraine.
And if you don’t have their contacts, I’ll be happy to give them to you.
Also, Obelisk in Finland is another group, and I know a
number of you know them ‑‑ getting them involved I think could be very
helpful because they have been involved over the years on issues around refugee
camps in Africa and other sites. The whole issue of accessibility and
accessibility not being taken into consideration is something that they have
been working on with other groups.
So I think right now there is a lot of learning that is
going on at the same time that we don’t have time to really learn because we
need to be acting but obviously that is what you’re all doing. I am, of
course, continuously going to be working with Marcie and all of you and just
really want to thank you. Many of the issues that you’re discussing are
issues we have known about, that when I worked over at the State Department
under the Obama administration, and I know Sarah and an Cody, Kathy at USAID
are all working on this. So bonding together, continuing to really
highlight the problem that is you’re facing, the successes that you’re having
and how you’re making those successes occur and being able to share that
information with some of the other larger humanitarian groups. I know
save the children is also in Ukraine and UNICEF. I don’t know if you’re
working with those groups but I’m very interested in hearing what others are
doing. So I’m going to cut my remarks a little bit short and just to say,
with deep gratitude for everything you’re doing and we will all continue to
support you ‑‑ period. Thank you.
>> MARCIE: Thank you, so much Judy. Your practical suggestions
are always spot on and deep.
I’m going to turn to German, but, yes, Eric has been incredibly supportive
and we really appreciate The Partnership with Disability Rights
International. And I’m now going to turn to German who is going to
introduce ‑‑ I think it will be Dan. I don’t think Brian has been
able to join us.
>> German: Thank you Marcie. And again, thank you Judy for all
the work you do always globally to bring Disability Rights and our needs to the
forefront and Yulia and all teams supporting Fight for Right. Everyone’s
hearts are with you and we are here to support you. Dan is joining us who
has been connected to GADRA by Tina Marie from Bristol‑Myers Squibb and Dan
is with Kingsman, doing great work in helping the calls coming in from Fight
for Right with evacuations and much more. I’ll pass it off to Dan.
>> Dan: Good morning, everybody. Thank you German. My name
is Dan Manning, I’m the CEO of USPA nationwide security. A managing
member of Kingsman Philanthropic Corporation. Kingsman is a 501(c)(3)
registered charity formed in 2005 to combat human trafficking and conduct
kidnap recoveries and rescues. When the war started, we transitioned over
to doing evacuations because of our extensive security network.
Currently, we are working with the World Institute on Disability. They
provided us with a list of approximately 120 names plus some others that we
have to conduct rescues. A teammate of mine, Brian Fitzgibbons was
supposed to give this introduction. He is working around the clock to
provide the operational support.
We are serving as the boots on the ground for the evacuations working with a
network of our NGOs or those that we have partnered with in the past, providing
highly‑trained medics and security officers to conduct the operations. As
of now, the best way that we can be supported is financially. Cut right
to the chase. These rescues do cost money. The more that we have,
the more that we can help out with. We are conducting operations around
the clock with 11 planned for today. Without getting into too much of the
operational side of things, I would refer everybody to Marcie if they have
questions. Marcie knows how to contact us securely so we can get you the
best answer for your questions. I will leave my contact information in
the message board. Feel free to reach out to me directly via e‑mail and I
can also help out with whatever else is necessary. Thank you.
>> MARCIE: Thank you, so much Dan. And please convey our thanks
to the rest of the team. I know you had a very significant success
yesterday in rescuing some folks in a very, very difficult situation. We
are very relieved that that was successful. And I want to also be clear
that the costed are for the actual rescue process. The team is not making
any money on this. It’s for the actual rescue.
Let’s now hear from an incredible ally, partner, someone
I have been working with on disaster issues for more years than I think we’d
like to admit, but from the European Disability Forum, Gordon Rattray is
International Cooperation Officer and we have been working side‑by‑side over
the last week in support of Fight for Right and Ukrainians with disabilities.
>> Gordon. Thank you very much. And thank you for the
opportunity to participate today. So, just briefly, European Disability
Forum is an umbrella organization of persons with disabilities. Defends
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Europe. And what I try to do
is briefly in roughly chronological order explain what we have been doing since
the committee released the escalation. So the first thing that we did as
EDF, European Disability Forum was put an immediate statement on line
highlighting the situation for persons with disabilities and the rights of
persons with disabilities on the convention of International humanitarian
law. We contacted our members in neighboring countries and many of them
were already starting to work as we heard already from previous speakers in
countries like Poland, Slovakia, Romania, with things like accessible
transport, shelter, medications, Assistive Technology for people arriving on
the border. We are also responding to organizations of persons with
disabilities who have contacted us that we didn’t already know and working on
supporting them and identifying what it is we can do with them. And the
first few days we also contacted and spoke with other European organizations
who are members of EDF, including inclusion Europe and the European Network of Service
Providers for Persons with Disabilities.
We met with policy staff of the European Commission’s
departments for humanitarian aid and civil protection and also for migration
and asylum. And we followed these meetings up with official letters to
these departments a couple of days later it’s fair to say that everybody that
we have spoken to so far has been overwhelmed and the intention of our meetings
was to highlight the situation for persons with disabilities and the increased
risk that they face. We also are collaborating with UNHC R and UNICEF and
sharing what we are doing with them and learning what they are doing and making
links between them and other organizations and organizations of persons with disabilities
who are members or not in the field.
Regarding the U.N. coordination mechanism, we immediately
sent a letter, official letter from EDF to the U.N. office for Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs highlighting the priority needs and the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities. And we are now feeding information, which is often very
specific, very detailed information, into the disability technical Working
Group, part of the protection cluster.
This includes things like details of institutions where there are no food,
no water, no heating oil, medications, that kind of thing. And maybe you
have seen but there was a policy brief that came out from the protection
cluster yesterday on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which is worth reading
using and referring to in your advocacy work.
Our ongoing work starting next week, there is a strategy
meeting we are going to attend with the EU on their, we care policy, and also
looking at their plans for temporary protection directive. So basically
how the EU is going to treat refugees arriving from Ukraine and of course from
our point of view that is making sure the refugees with disabilities have got
equal access to everything that they require. We are doing practical
things like translation of guidelines and tools. And we are directing humanitarian
agencies to DPOs and also directing people who want our organizations, people
and organization whose want to make donations to organizations of persons with
disabilities who are responding.
Lastly, I will say that as with all of you, many of our
staff have been full‑time busy the last week or 10 days on this and now we are
looking to employ extra people to work on it. We developed a framework to
guide our activities not just in the next weeks and months but in the long term
up to two years and identifying things like meeting immediate needs both in and
outside of Ukraine and influencing the wider humanitarian response and building
the capacity of our members and other organizations of persons with
disabilities in the long term. So I’ll stop there. I hope that
gives you a rough overview and please contact me if you need more information.
>> MARCIE: Thank you very much, Gordon. I think those were
incredibly helpful updates. And we of course will do what we can to help
spread the word for additional support. Our next speaker, someone I first
connected with when we were working together on the United Nations Humanitarian
Action and persons with disabilities guidance, which was published several
years later in 2019. Since then, Ricardo Pla Cordero has joined the
UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agencies, as a protection officer for
Disability Inclusion and Ricardo has been quite supportive as we try to
navigate connecting Fight for Right and disability‑led organizations with UNHCR
and the work that they are doing. Ricardo?
>> Ricardo: Thank you, Marcie. And hello, everyone. Thank
you for this moment. So my name is Ricardo Pla. My pronounce are he
and his and I work as a protection officer in Geneva as mentioned by Marcie in
the U.N. high Commissioners for refugees. Just few updates on the
previous work to give an idea of what was happening before. So persons
with disabilities were around 19% of cases supported through individual
protection support in Ukraine as of December 2021. This included
supporting access and documentation, supporting cross entry and exit points
from areas already inflicted by conflict. And there was a Working Group
as mentioned by Gordon on age and disability led by the National Protection
cluster and coordinated by helping with the occupation and the scaling of
the conflict, there was a flash to appear in response plans, flash appeal by
the U.N. office for coordination of humanitarian efforts. And I will share
the links so everyone, use them as well for advocacy and for planning.
And then there was a refugee response to plans as well for the refugee response
around a number of countries. Both documents have mentions to persons
with disabilities and we would welcome all organizations making U.N. entities
accountable for these commitments.
In terms of other actions, so national organizations of
persons with disabilities have been invited to participate in this protection
cluster meetings. It is a lesson learned to highlight that this should have
been happened before and thanking Marcie, Yulia, Gordon and the representative
for organizations for the flexibility and the commitment to engage in
humanitarian‑led mechanisms despite coordination sensitivities. The
cluster has, as mentioned by Gordon, the global protection class shared
recommendations and a platform with protection monitoring data which includes
as well which are most at risk or being most at risk for persons with
disabilities being third after children and women and of course considering
that within women and children, groups there are women and children with
disabilities. Scaling up protection staff around countries and doing
deployments as well on disability, including ‑‑ in addition to child protection.
And key information gap with this trying to finalize as I have gone over time,
the key issue is information on asylum procedures. So first not only
evacuation but then who is going to be able to leave the country. And I
shared information on the Marshal law in the chat but as well who is – ‘what
are the procedures for requesting asylum in neighboring countries and other
I’m going to share a link. There is information about the
neighboring countries, asylum procedures clear that unitary is not registering
refugees that the moment. This is the National Authorities. But we
can be of support and we are advocating for the use of the questions which we
have requested the Washington group Secretariat to translate into Ukrainian and
in one day it is very, very efficient this commitment from them. And we
can share those and then currently all authorities to use them. Final
points we are discussing as well with the World Federation of the Deaf
producing Sign Language videos with information on key International protection
asylum procedures that could be made available in support helps around the
region but as well to allow for on demand interpretation services for asylum
procedures in particular. Other procedures would be as well very welcome.
I stop here. Thank you for giving this time for providing update.
>> MARCIE: Thank you very much, Ricardo. A lot of very important
information. I will particularly note your reminder to hold the U.N.
agencies accountable and welcome every opportunity to work together as quickly
as we possibly can. Our colleague, Lynn Madnic from the U.S. State
Department had to leave. She wanted me to convey her thanks to Yulia and Fight
for Right for keeping us informed and letting us know the most urgent needs and
she also thanked WID for organizing the briefing and I know that the U.S. State
Department has been very available. And we are in close communication
with them and we’ll continue to do so.
I’m now going to turn to Dawn Skaggs from our team. Dawn
will give us some brief information and then we will get to questions and
>> DAWN: Hello. I’m Dawn Skaggs. My pronouns are she and
her and I am the Director of Emergency, Disaster and Climate Resilience here at
the World Institute on Disability. In this area of the World Institute on
Disability, we lead emergency planning response and recovery and mitigation
work to build engagement of the robust resources within the global disability
community. And we work to impact and reduce the disproportionate impact
of disasters on people with disabilities. The Global Alliance for
Disaster Resource Acceleration, which you have occasionally referred to as
GADRA, on this call, is a collaborative that is a part of our work towards
disaster Health Equity, disability security justice, universal inclusion and
humanitarian aid and disaster risk reduction for People with
Disabilities. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about what that means
in the context of what has been happening over the last two weeks.
We work to minimize the impact of the most significantly
impacted populations in the community. The Global Alliance is a coalition
of Disability‑led organizations in partnership with corporate foundation
humanitarian entities to provide support, expertise and coordination. And
we have stepped in to join with Fight for Right and the fabulously passionate
articulate people you have heard speak already today.
As you heard, the needs are huge. The people are
compassionate and passionate but the resources are few. And so in order
to continue this work of saving lives and helping people who are currently
being left behind, there is many layers of work that we are addressing.
The Global Alliance has been coordinating together with The Partnership and Fight
for Right on accessible evacuation, assistance at the borders with resettlement
in new locations, case management and care coordination, centralized operations
and communications, developing and maintaining the necessary tools and
technologies to make things happen, mutual aid and networks of support,
disability‑led agency engagement, safety and protection measures and disability‑related
services and support. Together with individual person islands assistance
for survivors. The Global Alliance has been incredibly fortunate to have
the incredible partners and support of our Founder’s Circle members, our
Corporate Partners, our peers from other amazing disability‑led organizations
and responding agencies and from socially‑responsible individuals.
We are going to round out this hour together with an
opportunity for you to join Fight for Right, to join the Global Alliance who
has come up bee side Fight for Right on this mission to respond to the needs of
people with disabilities in Ukraine. And the ongoing needs of those who
still need, who are currently being evacuated and those who have successfully
evacuated. Because the challenges do not stop when you cross the border.
You can help today by donating any amount to these
efforts. In the link that Heather is going to be dropping in the
chat. We’ll also be sending this link out directly following this
presentation. This link will take you directly to the PayPal site that
has been set up for this specific mission. Contributions of any amount
will be greatly appreciated and they will be put to good use to support all
facets of these operations. They’ll be managed through the Finance
Department at the World Institute on Disability who has set up the system to
ensure the best use of these funds. As a result of multiple other
previous Global Alliance responses. Later today, the World Institute on Disability
studies and the Global Alliance is rolling out another way to support Fight for
Right. Thanks to the assistance from AT&T and the mobile giving
foundation, we are providing a text-to-give campaign opportunity. This is
an easy way to step in and join in this mission effort. By later today,
you’ll be able to text WID for the World Institute on Disability, to 20222, in
order to send a 10 dollar donation. Or, WORLD to 20222, to send a $25 donation
to the mission. Again, that is WID to 20222 or WORLD to 20222. It’s
simple a text on your phone to come out on your monthly bill and you will be
able to join the amazing work you have been hearing about today. You will
be receiving this information, in case you weren’t able to capture that.
For the Paypal and for the text to give opportunities later this afternoon following
this webinar event.
That will come to your contact information that you
provided when you signed up to join. You may also log on to
GADRA.org where you can help and join GADRA. You may log into
WID.org where you will be able to have the same experience. Find out
more about what we are doing, get on our e‑mail list and we can keep you
updated and you can share this information with others that you know who may
not have been able to join us today. Thank you in advance for joining us
and for your participation in this important collaboration as we move forward
towards saving lives, reestablishing lives and providing hope. I’m going
to turn it over now to Shaylin from The Partnership who will host us with a
question‑and‑answer period because I’m sure you have many. Thank you very
>> Shaylin: Thank you Dawn. And thank you all for adding
comments in the chat and into the Q&A. I do want to encourage, as I
address some questions that we have already for folks to please if you have any
questions, to put them in the Q&A section so we can address them. And
if we are not able to get to your question today, we will provide information
following the event as Dawn mentioned. More information is to come.
One question that came in from Aaron, I want folks to note and certainly follow
folks that are doing this work. The question Aaron asks is, are there
social media accounts we can help share for getting specific stories out there
or are there spaces for storytelling for awareness raising? And first and
foremost, we want to encourage storage follow Fight for Right on Facebook and
Twitter. We have provided their website to learn more about them.
They are putting out information as they can and on the evacuations and the
resources connecting that they are able and doing on the ground. We are
also at The Partnership amplifying those messages and also helping to put out
information with Fight for Right. So do take a look through The Partnership
Facebook and Twitter and our website has been provided. More information
about the announcement that Dawn made about text to donate will be provided on
the GADRA, Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration Facebooks and
Twitter. And will be also sharing throughout all of our networks.
So thank you for that question, Aaron. And I provided those links also to
Aaron’s reply and I know those have been also being put in the chat. And
all of this information will be provided after the event as well.
We had another question come in from Kelly who asked
about connections with International humanitarian organizations and asking for
more information with which organizations we may be working with and which ones
we are seeking connections. I want to reiterate we are connected with
organizations in the surrounding countries bordering countries, and groups
around and on the grounds. If you like to share resources with us, please
do e‑mail us. We added that in the chat and in the Q&A reply.
That e‑mail is Directors@disasterstrategies.org.
Perhaps maybe Fight for Right or Anna folks want to
add around what resources we are really looking for at this moment?
>> Avery: I can just emphasize specifically at the border regions we
have made connections with OPDs or DPOs depending on how they identify in the
border regions but direct contacts are critical. Specifically we are
still looking for who can provide short and long‑term accessible housing in
Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova because we need to make initial
connections at the borders but there is a sustained need as well. So
direct contacts with individuals who could possibly provide short and long‑term
accessible housing in Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova, which have been
the areas of most need at least from our cases. So thank you.
>> Shaylin: Thank you, Avery. Also, I see quite a few questions
coming in around the resources mentioned, the information about donating and
the links that have been provided. All of this information will be sent
out after this event for all that have registered and we’ll of course be
sharing this on our social media sites as well. So please do follow folks
at Fight for Right at The Partnership and the Global Alliance for Disaster
Resource Acceleration and the World Institute on Disability. We are
sharing information as soon as we have it and putting it out rapidly so please
do follow and share within your networks and thank you all for these questions.
Any other questions, Heather, that I’m missing
maybe in the chat?
>> HEATHER: We do have one hand raised by Igor. I’m going to
allow you to talk if you have a question.
>> SHAYLIN: Igor will be using an ASL Interpreter.
Is that right? You can ask your question.
>> German: Igor is deaf. If you could communicate with his
camera. His camera is off.
>> HEATHER: I’m going to promote Igor to a panelist.
>> German: Thank you, Heather.
>> Igor: Can you see me? Okay. Yes. Finally.
Excellent. Hello, my name is Igor. And I am from the Independent
Living Center. I am Deaf advocate here in Ukraine. Some of the Deaf
here in the country have of course evacuated the country. We are focusing
on persons who are DeafBlind and Deaf who use wheelchairs and it’s very heart‑wrenching
to see the supports that they need and also for Deaf‑Blind who need tactile
interpreting to communicate.
There is absolutely nothing as far as tactile support for them. And
it’s very heart‑wrenching. I have not been able to contact all of the
Deaf in the region for services personally. Where you have persons who
are Deaf and disabled, that’s the situation that we have. And it
definitely is touching my heart and we are definitely keeping them in our
thoughts that the time and please do the same.
>> Shaylin: Thank you, Igor. Really appreciate all your work and
for joining us today.
>> Igor: No problem. Thank you.
>> Shaylin: I see a question that has come in asking me if folks know
of any sexual minority LGBTQ focused efforts as well? I’m not sure if
folks at Fight for Right might like to answer?
>> Anna: I believe we might have some resources on that. I also want
to note that as I’m sure many know, there is a lot of intersection of the
disability and various queer communities and several of the cases of evacuees
that we have helped have been both disabled and part of the LGBTQI+
community. But I’ll also turn it over to Irina for additions.
>> Irina: There are organizations that ‑‑ grassroots
organizations that are helping people on the ground and helping trans people
for assessing the necessary medication and the border crossing is still a
complicated issue for people who are currently have a different gender
marker. And it’s been a jointed effort for a lot of people to provide
shelter for LGBTQ+ people in Ukraine to equip them spaces as sometimes it’s
just accessible like basement where people can congregate in safety and to hide
from air raids. And I can name a few initiatives like Bill Kids ‑‑ Independent
Feminists Student Cooperative who is working now and trying to get food,
medicine and to sometimes helping with their evacuations and legal support at
the border crossing right now.
>> Shaylin: Thank you Irina. With that, I know we are short on
time. We are getting close to the end of our time together. I want
to thank everyone for your questions, for your comments. A lot of
information will be coming your way today. So please be on the lookout.
Much more to come and thank you all for joining us and for your support for Ukrainians
with disabilities during this really incredibly disastrous time. I want
to pass it off to our folks at Fight for Right for any Closing Remarks you may
like to share. Maybe Avery or Yulia?
>> Avery: Thank you very much, Shaylin. Yulia will also speak
right now. I want to just make sure you can ‑‑ okay. I just
want to reemphasize here that we are so thankful that our team of volunteers
with Fight for Right, has been expanded and grown in the outreach and
coordination has improved vastly over the last 10 days. But it’s very
much worth emphasizing that it’s the burden of work and the effort that has
been done is almost entirely on the Ukrainians with disabilities who are
evacuating and serving and directly speaking to other Ukrainians with
disabilities who have urgent needs and are sharing in horrible
circumstances. So the priorities for direct humanitarian aid and
connections with other groups also with groups like Igor’s who are doing direct
work to try to reach these individuals and help them as they are primarily
helping themselves, is critical. So we want to thank you for joining us
today and we hope that you can come alongside us and directly supporting Ukrainians
with disabilities who are impacted and leading the effort on serving and
reaching Ukrainians with disabilities. And I will turn it over to Yulia
who will say the final piece here.
>> Yulia: Thank you, Avery and thank you everyone. And really
these days, you know, I feel and our team and our community feel such
support. We couldn’t imagine ‑‑ yes this moment is very sad and
tomorrow is very sad, but I’m really proud that community of people with
disabilities from Ukraine, from abroad are united in our efforts of saving
lives and I really don’t have words to express my appreciation. I’m also
know about ‑‑ and finally, I really want to ask ‑‑ monitor the
situation. As Avery said, we need to direct support. I want to ask
Igor to contact us because I know, really know, that how this difficult
situation in Ukraine for Deaf and especially Deaf and blind people. I
also know and I have today conversation with Raisa Kravchenko, who is the Head
of the National Coalition of People with Intellectual Disabilities. And
it is very difficult. And all we discuss why in this situation of war, we
as a Human Rights activists, as a Disability Rights activist, looking for ‑‑
I don’t know – any support. And why this platform and groups have never
been created before and we were not ready for this situation. Some may be
negative but very important for me, I always now trying to say this about U.N.
mechanisms and emergencies. We have conversations with Ricardo before the
war and he shared with me a lot of resources. But at the same time, we
have the conversation and meeting with class protection cluster in Ukraine, and
we didn’t receive any support, any direct support. I still don’t know any
person with disability who was supported. I know only one organization
who support people with disabilities. And I say this not before ‑‑ I
didn’t know like only to criticize. I really want to improve
International mechanisms. I was fighting for implementation of U.N.
Convention in Ukraine from the beginning of the ratification. I’m really
dedicated. I’m really ‑‑ I don’t know, to spend my life.
Because people with disabilities are my family, community, friends. And
to hear during our meeting with protection cluster, when I asked about
information in accessible formats and Moderator asked me to make information
form accessible by myself ‑‑ it’s really not the level of U.N. which I was
fighting for. And please, don’t be silent about this. Because very
often I feel like you know, like woman who demands a lot. I don’t
demand. I demand rights, Human Rights for me, for my community, for every
person with disability in this world.
In the end, once again, I’m really thankful for
Marcie, for World Institute on Disability, for Partnership for Inclusive Disaster
Strategies. For every person who supports not only Fight for Right as
team, as organization, but all the Ukrainians with disabilities and please, if
you person with disability, want to be included, to be volunteer, or to work on
this process, or to receive support, please don’t hesitate. Contact me,
Avery, any volunteer. I’m totally sure that we will do our best to find
solutions and to save Ukrainians with disabilities’ rights. Thank you.
>> HEATHER: Thank you for joining us today. With that, that is
the end of our webinar today. And we will be sending out e‑mail follow‑ups
to all attendees later today. Thank you very much.
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