Human Rights Watch
Worldwide one billion individuals have a disability. Many people with disabilities live in conflict settings or in developing countries, where they experience a range of barriers to education, health care, and other basic services. In many countries, they are subjected to violence and discrimination. People with disabilities are also often deprived of their right to live independently, as many are locked up in institutions, shackled, or cycled through the criminal justice system. Many of these human rights abuses are a result of entrenched stigma and a lack of community-based services essential to ensuring their rights, including under the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Our goal is to help change that, working closely together with disabled persons’ organizations and other partners.
Concerns of Neglect in Nursing Homes
- In March, we launched a report on potential neglect and prolonged isolation that may have caused serious harm to many people in nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic. HRW interviews, as well as reports for independent monitors, revealed concerns including extreme weight loss, dehydration, untreated bedsores, inadequate hygiene, mental and physical decline, and inappropriate use of psychotropic medications among nursing home residents. We call on federal and state authorities to investigate the situation and ensure accountability for abuse.
- In October, we released a piece that urges Congress to fully fund HCBS in the budget reconciliation bill, which seeks to address eligibility for HCBS, as well as quality of care and workforce concerns.
- The overwhelming majority of older people and people with disabilities in the US, no matter how they vote, prefer to live at home rather than in residential institutions like a nursing home. Millions of people access HCBS to help them live independently, yet, about 820,000 people in the US are currently on waiting lists to receive HCBS, reflecting decades of underinvestment in the program, which is run by Medicaid.
- Investments to HCBS are projected to create short and long-term economic benefits across the US. HCBS services are more affordable than institutionalized care and can enable family caregivers to return to the workforce.
- It is estimated that millions of people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities are deprived of legal capacity and placed under some form of guardianship. Just like Spears, this has led to a range of abuses, including forced medical treatment, forced contraception and coerced termination of pregnancies, involuntary confinement, forced living arrangements, and limited freedom of movement. Restoring respect for rights to bodily autonomy, health, and to live free of violence requires the guardianship system to be replaced by a system of supported decision-making that respects the autonomy, will, and preferences of all people with disabilities.
- HRW supported Senate Bill 639 (SB 639), a bill that would overturn the discriminatory practice of paying workers with disabilities in California less than the state minimum wage. This is based on the discriminatory assumption that wages should be downwardly adjusted for employees whose disabilities make them unable to work in typical work settings because they are not as productive as their peers without disabilities. California is not the only state to allow this discriminatory practice, as many other states currently follow the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) section 14(c), which allows employers to pay people with disabilities less than the state minimum wage. This practice is inconsistent with international and domestic law.
- In late September, Governor Newsom signed SB 639, which will phase out the practice of issuing certificates for subminimum wages. The Roosevelt-era program will be completely phased out in the state by January 1, 2025.