The Government of Canada has published an informative article on the topic of COVID 19 and People with Disabilities. Below is an excerpt from the article on the additional risk factors those with disabilities face and how to help protect them from COVID 19.

Risk Factors

Having a disability alone may not put you at higher risk for getting COVID-19 or having severe illness if you do get COVID-19. However, some people with disabilities might be at a higher risk of infection or severe illness because of their age, underlying medical conditions or their disability which could put them at greater risk of being exposed and acquiring the infection.

Some factors that may make a person with a disability more at risk of acquiring COVID-19 or progressing to more severe COVID-19 infection, other than age and underlying chronic conditions, include:

  • The nature of some disabilities may put individuals at a higher risk of infection. For example, people who have difficulties washing their own hands, blind or low-vision Canadians who must physically touch objects for support or to obtain information, and those with trouble understanding and/or following public health guidance on physical distancing may be at higher risk.
  • Individuals with disabilities living in long-term residential facilities, group homes, prisons, foster homes or assisted living may face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 due to proximity to others in communal living and the need to come in contact with people living outside their accommodation.
  • Individuals with disabilities interacting with multiple care providers/supports and friends have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to increased exposure.
  • Visitor and support person restrictions in hospitals, long-term care homes, congregate and individual dwellings helps reduce virus transmission, but can put persons with disabilities who require assistance communicating their symptoms and personal care choices at risk. It is important to consider that social isolation may impact people with disabilities' physical, social, mental and emotional health and well-being.
  • Persons with disabilities may face barriers to accessing COVID-19 public communications and response services and programs, particularly where intersecting vulnerabilities are present, e.g. economic, social, rural/remote communities, language, race, age and gender. There may be a need for assistance to navigate community supports and frequent communications with new information. Information will need to be communicated in a variety of ways and be made available through a variety of mediums.
  • Treatment of unrelated health conditions may put a person with disabilities at risk if the health care system is overloaded by COVID-19. This could present barriers to health services for persons with disabilities, and would be felt acutely by persons with multiple disabilities.
  • The loss of important services and supports provided through community programming, employment, access to therapies and school can also be detrimental to a persons' overall health and well-being and lead to regression in positive development for some persons with disabilities.

It is very important that those who work and live with those with disabilities are aware of the considerations needed during COVID-19. Adapting and being creative and proactive at this time is essential to ensure the voices of those with disabilities are heard and responded to. And as usual, if a person with a disability or their support persons/friends have any questions or concerns regarding any health issues, their primary healthcare providers should be consulted.

Protecting People with Disabilities from COVID-19

If you are a person with a disability or care for/support or are friends with someone who has a disability, there are things you can do to protect yourself and them from COVID-19, these include:

  • Stay home and only go outside your home for necessary activities like doctor appointments or getting groceries.
  • Ask family, a neighbour, or friend to help with essential errands (e.g., picking up prescriptions, buying groceries).
  • When you do go outside the home make sure you practice physical distancing with those who are not in your private circle, as much as possible.
  • Wash your hands or support hand washing for the person with disabilities. This should be done after touching frequently touched surfaces and prior to meals. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used instead of water and soap when available.
  • Make sure you (or those who engage others on your behalf) or your care/support persons do not interact with others who are sick. Ask your direct support/care providers/friends and family, or have others ask on your behalf, if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. For those who are the care/supports or family members, check that you have no symptoms prior to any interaction with the person with a disability. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may include:
    • Fever (temperature of 38.0°C or greater), or
    • Any new or worsening respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, runny nose or sneezing, nasal congestion, hoarse voice, sore throat or difficulty swallowing), or
    • Any new onset atypical symptoms including but not limited to chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, fatigue, general feeling of discomfort, or headache
  • Immediately notify or have others notify your family/care providers/friends if you or the persons you are caring for/supporting becomes ill. If the person with the disability remains within their home environment, please see:
  • Continually look for ways to protect, listen, support, adapt, and accommodate. Everyone's situation is unique and needs to be reviewed and considered on an individual basis.

For more information on "COVID 19 and People with Disabilities" please visit the Government of Canada website.