CACL knows that the implications of COVID-19 for people with intellectual disabilities and their families are significant. Many of us are facing increased levels of anxiety. Personal isolation and “social distancing” may separate us from friends, family, regular health care, or support systems and services. Our carefully established routines for loved ones with a disability may be disrupted. These are not small issues, and we are committed to ensuring people with intellectual disabilities and their families have access to important information that is accessible.
CACL is sharing disability-related resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic on this page, pulled together in one spot for families. We are adding to it as trustworthy resources are developed. Let’s also be sure to stay connected to each other in new ways. When you find reliable information or practices that may help other families, share it! And to be sure we see it, use #COVIDdisability.
CACL Executive Vice President, Krista Carr, has been providing weekly video updates regarding CACL’s ongoing COVID-related work.
Trusted COVID-19 Information
Avoid speculation and rely only on information provided by public health authorities to make important decisions that affect your family and loved ones. Some trusted sources of information include:
Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released specific Disability considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Government of Canada recently released a guidance document on COVID-19 and people with disabilities.
Plain Language Information
- The Green Mountain Self-Advocates have developed a plain language guide for self-advocates and their support staff.
- Self-advocate COVID-19 guide and workbook, adapted from Opening Doors UK.
- Our friends at People First of Canada have developed a plain language information sheet for self-advocates, based on Public Health Canada’s recommendations.
- Surrey Place also has produced an Easy Read guide.
- Looking after your mental health during COVID-19 – a plain language guide by the Council for Intellectual Disability
- MindHeart Kids has developed a social story that explains Coronavirus and helps to reduce anxiety.
COVID-19 and Discrimination
COVID-19 has potentially disproportionate impacts on vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized peoples, older people living alone or in institutions, and low-income communities. Many of these vulnerable groups are more likely to have limited access to safe and inclusive housing, childcare, transportation, and secure employment.
People with disabilities also have higher incidences of chronic or co-occurring health conditions. Discrimination, including harassment against any persons or communities related to COVID-19, is prohibited when it involves a ground under the Human Rights Code, in the areas of services, housing, and employment, among others.
- The Ontario Human Rights Commission has released an information resource on discrimination and COVID-19 and a policy statement on a human rights based approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
People with disabilities have a right to accessible health care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals have visitation bans. These bans are important safety measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. But, because of these bans, some hospitals are not allowing support persons, attendants and communication assistants to be with people with disabilities in hospital. In this way, visitation bans prevent some people with disabilities from getting equal access to health care.
- ARCH Disability Law Centre has developed an Advocacy Toolkit – Advocating for Your Support Person, Attendant or Communication Assistant to be with You in Hospital During the COVID-19 Pandemic. A plain language version of the toolkit is also available.
Patients with COVID-19 who need communication tools and supports due to speech-related disabilities face increased risk of discrimination and isolation during this pandemic. For example, for safety reasons, family members and others who assist with communication may not be allowed in the hospital.
- Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) has developed a communication rights toolkit that explains your communication rights, provides tips on advocating for those rights, and has an accommodation request form you can bring to the hospital.
Information for Caregivers
- Healthcare Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (HCARDD) has helpful plain language and caregiver information on how to stay safe, well, and connected during the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as general information for people with developmental disabilities on accessing the healthcare system.
- The Ontario Caregiver Organization has information on precautions for caregivers and a tip sheet for caregiver mental health.
- COVID-19: Guidance for for Prevention and Care, produced by Surrey Place, is a guide for care providers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- The National Organization for FASD has developed a Stay At Home Guide for children with FASD that is a fun resource for all those whose daily routines may be disrupted.
- The Center for Disability Rights (USA) has prepared action steps for people with disabilities who use attendant services or support workers.
- Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Modules (AFIRM) has developed a website with tools for supporting individuals with Autism through uncertain times.
- An illustrated guide for families and carers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on how to respond when someone dies from coronavirus, developed by Books Beyond Words.
- A webinar by Community Living Ontario provides guidance in supporting the health of persons with a developmental disability during the pandemic.
COVID-19 and Government Support
On March 18, 2020, the federal government announced a new set of economic measures to help Canadians during this challenging period. These measures, delivered as part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, will provide support to Canadian workers and businesses; however, no specific measures have been announced for people with disabilities. This information is evolving and we will update as financial measures for people with disabilities and caregivers are confirmed.
In the meantime, a helpful federal and provincial-territorial contact and resource list for questions around financial support from government has been created by Jennifer Robson, Associate Professor of Political Management at Carleton University.
Autism Nova Scotia has also created a visual guide to support people applying to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
COVID-19 and Mental Health
- We encourage you to look out for those around you and check in on someone if you notice significant attitude or behavioural shifts. If you do see significant changes and are worried about someone you love, Be There provides information on how to start a conversation and give support.
- The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has tips, coping strategies, and resources to manage mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Dr. Sachiko Nagasawa from Bay Psychology has developed a COVID-19 workbook Tolerance for Uncertainly: A guide to accept your feelings, tolerate distress, and and thrive.
- The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, launched a new portal dedicated to mental wellness to connect Canadians with qualified mental health support workers.
Accessible Information on COVID-19
- The World Federation of the Deaf has information available in International Sign Language and other national Sign Languages.
- Canadian Assistive Technologies has put together a list of accessible platforms being offered free of charge during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Emergency Preparedness and People with a Disability
Both the Ontario and federal governments have produced guidelines aimed at: 1) knowing the risks; 2) making a plan; and, 3) assembling emergency supplies.
- Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities (Federal)
- Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities (Ontario)
Keep checking back as we add more accessible resources and information from trustworthy sources for families and self-advocates. We invite you to share your finds with us online using #COVIDdisability.
Please note: As a national office with staff across the country, the CACL team already works largely in a virtual capacity. CACL is following the advice of Public Health Canada and has cancelled in-person meetings and all travel, and staff with caregiver responsibilities are working flexible schedules to accommodate COVID-19 related closures. Our full operations continue, so please feel free to connect with us online or by phone.