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People with Disabilities & the COVID-19 Pandemic: Key Issues & Resources

image of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)Washington, D.C., March 17 – As the COVID-19 outbreak turns the world upside down, it is critically important that the global response to this crisis include people with disabilities. More than 9 million Americans are especially at risk from potentially life-threatening impacts of the virus. Moreover, fully 1-in-5 people have a learning, mental health, physical, sensory or other disability. People can be born with a disability or acquire one due to an accident, aging, gun violence or during military service.

People with disabilities are uniquely vulnerable to the disruptive consequences of COVID-19. Whether we are talking about issues of food insecurity, access to healthcare/testing, switching to telework, or life-or-death medical decisions, people with disabilities are deeply impacted by these events. This crisis demands leadership at every level of government, every sector of civil society and from the disability community itself.

Because this is a rapidly evolving situation, RespectAbility is closely monitoring developments and collecting new resources to help impacted communities. At present, there are several critical action steps that we want to see taken to address COVID-19’s impact on people with disabilities:

  • STOP THE SPREAD: Leaders at every level need to advocate for and implement measures that will prevent the spread of the virus, including access to testing for people with disabilities.
  • PROTECT FRONTLINE RESPONDERS: Ensure front line responders and caregivers get the protection, testing and resources they need to serve those most at risk of experiencing COVID-19.
  • ENABLE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES WHO ARE LIVING IN THE COMMUNITY TO HAVE ACCESS TO FOOD & SUPPORTS: Clear guidance and protocols are needed among the caregiver and patient community to actively minimize COVID-19 transmission. This needs to include in-home protocols to care for people with disabilities who develop COVID-19, and require their standard care, but are not sufficiently ill to require a hospital bed. Expand food security measures to people who are especially at risk from the virus and/or whose disabilities limit their ability to access food at this time, including alternative delivery options if normal delivery is suspended.
  • ENSURE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES CAN KEEP THEIR JOBS AND/OR GAIN EMPLOYMENT WHEN THE CRISIS IS OVER: Ensure the unemployment resources/stimulus efforts explicitly provide additional resources for people with disabilities who may lose their job as a result of lockdowns, social distancing or other pandemic-caused economic disruptions.
  • ENSURE ACCESSIBILITY & TRANSPORTATION: Ensure that resources and information about the spread of this virus are accessible to people who are deaf, blind and/or have cognitive disabilities. Work that is moved from in-person to online should be made accessible to people who are deaf and/or blind. In addition, there must be options for people who have the virus and have physical disabilities to be transported to hospitals and testing sites.
  • OFFER ONLINE MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS: Pay special attention to the effect of social distancing on people with disabilities as well as the mental health consequences of social distancing and teleworking.

Community health depends not only on collective action, it depends on clear information. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been widely distributing information and guidance on how to respond to COVID-19. You can find those resources here:

As one of the federal agencies primarily responsible for meeting the needs of Americans with disabilities, the Administration on Community Living (ACL) has been transmitting resources in to help people with disabilities and their loved ones impacted by this crisis. Specific information for people with disabilities include steps for household planning, limiting the spread of the disease and following guidance from state governments.

Because many older people with disabilities depend on Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have collected extensive information for beneficiaries. Those resources can be found on their website here:

From within the disability community itself, there are several lines of efforts that merit close attention. Longtime advocate and thought leader Andrew Pulrang recently published an informative op-ed in Forbes about the coronavirus and the disability community. We encourage you to read that here:

In terms of the disability community, look to the hard work and leadership of the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (the Partnership). The staff of the Partnership are truly the nation’s leaders and subject matter experts on disability and disaster preparedness. Find their website here:

On Capitol Hill, many advocates are pushing for legislative solutions that would ensure people with disabilities would be included in whatever actions Congress takes to mitigate the long-term damage caused by these uncertain times. For example, the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion for Disasters Act (REAADI) and The Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) are getting renewed attention. You can learn more about those legislative proposals here: and here is the page to take action in support of REAADI:

Because COVID-19 is bringing renewed public attention to the problem of food insecurity and food access, we encourage those that have the opportunity, please find and support your local food bank:

Finally, last week, RespectAbility hosted a webinar on COVID-19, Disability & Mental Health. Watch the recording with open captions, download the PowerPoint and read the transcript here:

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15 comments… add one
  • Andrea Messenger Mar 25, 2020, 2:45 pm

    I am currently immune surpressed with Rheumatoid and on prenisone, demard and biologic drugs. Waiting on decisions from Social Security Disability. What help is there for me caught in the loop holes of not being qualified for anything as usual?

  • Russell Sykes Mar 25, 2020, 4:22 pm

    I’m on DISABILITY from to chronic lung issues. Afraid to leave my house to go get food and prescriptions along with other needs. My monthly check pays my bills and I’m broke. I need not much but a little extra cash can enable me to get my necessities delivered. I have no one here to help me because I mind my business by staying to my self and my so called family lives in other STATES. I’m in unfamiliar territory.
    HEEEEELP !!!

  • Michelle Mar 26, 2020, 2:46 am

    People who are living on a disability check which mine is between myself and my 15 year old daughter I get 800.00 a month. Try living on that with two females. Its impossible. Every other person I have talked to their child also gets a check but not mine. I have a BS degree but I have also had numerous nervous breakdowns and memory loss. I was a school teacher. But now I’m getting treated like a low life piece of shit. Tell me how all these others that get disability get it even on step children. And my daughter cant get a check at all. I am appalled. I have no money to put back for her education a car or even out clothes. . My fiance was killed in a car wreck two years ago March 31 2018. We were doing fine with his I come. But someone tell me who in this world csn raise a 15 year old and make it on 800.00 a month. It’s bullshit. And now we are not getting anything for the stimulus checks. When we need them the most. I’m not asking to be rich but to get by would be nice without having to livers with my mother. Who is going crazy herself. And I have to give her almost 300.00 of my big 800.00 a month. For the first time in my life. I drive a old car and. Csnt afford insurance. But can’t afford to go to jail either. So somebody hrlo. This is insane. I bet no one in the white house or any house could make it on 800.00 a month. They would laugh at that. But im not laughing. I am mad.

  • Kait Mar 26, 2020, 4:50 am

    I stumbled on your comment because my fiance is in the same boat. We’re waiting on an answer, he can’t work, and he’s going to fall through every crack and won’t qualify for any assistance. I don’t have an answer to your question but I wanted you to know that you aren’t alone and I hope everything goes well for you.

    • Stephanie Siow Sep 1, 2020, 7:58 pm

      Unemployment office under covid 19 pandemic payments 2 xs a mnth

  • Teresa Apr 5, 2020, 2:52 am

    I’m In the same boat as the two of you living off of ((less than 800,00 a month)) of disability benefits and a caregiver of an elderly parent and I’m disabled.but my state doesn’t have a program to pay a relative for Care-giving so I’m struggling every just get by.don’t get me wrong I’m very grateful that i’m getting my benefits.but did work even though I was suffering with a disability all my life.and end up with less than $800.00 a month because the state takes $20.00 out of my income monthly.

    • Stephanie Siow Sep 1, 2020, 7:57 pm

      Hi your state doesn’t have in home care services if they dont pay a family member you’ll probably have to get a caretaker off their list of providers

  • Ronda Flowers Apr 10, 2020, 10:10 am

    Okay so what is it that I got to do if I’m on disability to get the help and the stimulation check from the government to help me with my everyday needs in my home for food medical supplies and all that that I need I only get a certain amount of SSI I don’t get the full amount and I’m hurting for the money so what do I got to do to get the help from the government stimulation check I just don’t know what to get on to get this started please can you help me thank you Rhonda flowers my number is 936-689-4865 if you need to call me thank you very much

  • David Goodman Apr 22, 2020, 3:35 am

    Where is the damn stimulas money for us who draw disability every month we are going under

  • Elliott D. Cannon May 29, 2020, 2:39 am

    My daughter is 32 years old and severely handicapped. Blind ,feeding tube,tracheostomy’s,you get the idea. I’m unable to work due to a work related injury. My wife is the bread winner so she gets to claim me as a dependent. My daughter gets around 800.00 in as benefits. We are her caregivers with help from the waiver program. My question is ,is she eligible for any stimulus money.

  • Stephanie Sep 1, 2020, 7:47 pm

    Hi you can order Walmart online for groceries delivery cost no more than $10 for delivery they take EBT or debit. Also join w/ they’ll take copy of ebt food Receipts and give you $ 50 back in cash or on your ebt card.
    Pharmacy med deliveries w/ Alliance pharmacy delivery w/ Walgreen’s. Meds come to your mailbox its free pending on your insurance. Sign up IHSScounty if approved you can pick own caregiver etc. But really on line deliveries you for sure get all your needs. Caregiver can maybe help with laundary cleaning house fixing meals
    Good luck

  • Stephanie Sep 1, 2020, 7:49 pm

    Yes if she’s on SSSI or payes taxes

  • Stephanie Sep 1, 2020, 7:50 pm

    You should of got yours in may of this year or up to July latest

  • Stephanie Siow Sep 1, 2020, 7:53 pm

    You dont have to do anything g hopefully you have direct deposit at a bank if so dont have to do a thing they’ll deposit it automatically in your account

  • Sabrina Jackson Feb 7, 2021, 6:36 am

    I am gluing through the same thing, my son just turned 16. I cant work, I wish I could. Its not fair to the kids, why is this even a possiblity that ALL dependent children are not treated equal. I too get ALMOST 800.00 a month! In the first place, to think single person could live on such an inadequate amount is ridiculous. I hear about discriminatory behavior against the disabled all the time, WHAT ABOUT DISCRIMINATORY BEHAVIOR AGAINST THE DISABLED PARENTS CHILDREN!!! To try & comprehend any parent by no fault of their own is having to raise a child on such a inadequate wage is INSANITY in itself! I feel like a horrible mother in the first place by all the physical challenges I face with my child, but then I am devastated when I know I will never have a chance to give my son the things he needs!! This needs to be amended. Where are the all the Advocates for us!! I guess we don’t have the same rights as the person who was lucky enough to get to work past the age of 25 and got to continue to pay in!! I guess we should of thought about this when we had children and then decided to CHOOSE TO BECOME DISABLED!!😞

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