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
  • Our friends at People First of Canada have developed a plain language information sheet for self-advocates, based on Public Health Canada’s recommendations. 
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. 

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.

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 
  • 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.  
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.
Accessible Information on COVID-19
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.

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.