As the COVID-19 pandemic remains ongoing, philanthropy must double down on a commitment to ensure that the disability community is not left behind.
The National Council on Disability’s (NCD) 2021 Progress Report: The Impact of COVID-19 on People with Disabilities “found that COVID-19 exacted a steep toll on certain populations of people with disabilities, and the events that unfolded during the pandemic, including measures to mitigate the spread, posed unique problems and barriers to people with disabilities.” Issue areas include: “(1) accessing healthcare; (2) accessing direct care support; (3) congregate care settings and transition; (4) education; (5) employment; (6) effective communication; (7) mental health.”
This page offers powerful resources and reading that have been published within the past year as a starting point for learning about the connections between COVID-19 and key disability issues. While some of the pieces may have specific details that are out of date due to the continuing evolution of the pandemic, the overarching themes remain crucially relevant. (Please note that some of the content may be triggering.)
Disability Experiences and Perspectives
The disability community is not a monolith. Every disabled person has their own individual set of experiences regarding how the pandemic has impacted them. These pieces offer a range of insights about different types of disabilities, but the perspectives shared are far from exhaustive.
- Long COVID Can Be a Disability, White House Says
- Disability in the time of Covid-19: stories and policy recommendations
- Voices from the spectrum: Autistic people deal with coronavirus
- ‘It’s Hit Our Front Door’: Homes for the Disabled See a Surge of Covid-19
- Facing coronavirus while deaf and blind: ‘Everything relies on touch’
- For the Deaf, Social Distancing Can Mean Social Isolation
- Developmental Disabilities Heighten Risk of Covid Death
- “We’re being punished again”: How people with intellectual disabilities are experiencing the pandemic
- For the Chronic Illness Community, Quarantine Life is Nothing New
For the disability community, access to the COVID-19 vaccine has been fraught with barriers. The articles address some of the numerous vaccination-related inequities disabled people continue to encounter, and how some of them are pushing back.
- Disabled community ‘left behind’ in vaccine rollout one year later
- There Will Be No Herd Immunity without Vaccine Equity
- This women-made tool could help get more disabled people vaccinated
- They thought they’d be near the front of the line for the vaccine. Now, they don’t know where they stand.
- The Deepening of Disability Discrimination in a Pandemic: When Access to a Vaccine Depends on Website Accessibility
- Where’s the Vaccine for Ableism?
As the pandemic took hold, so too did ethical dilemmas about rationing healthcare for disabled people. Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a bulletin on avoiding disability discrimination in treatment rationing, fears of encountering this remain. In these pieces, disabled reflect on the life or death urgency of rationed care.
- As A Disabled Person, I’m Afraid I May Not Be Deemed Worth Saving From The Coronavirus
- I’m disabled and need a ventilator to live. Am I expendable during this pandemic?
- Don’t deny ventilators to disabled patients
- My Life Is More ‘Disposable’ During This Pandemic
- ‘I Will Not Apologize for My Needs’
- COVID-19 Medical Rationing & Facility Visitation Policies
Ableism and Racism
2020 laid bare the intersections of ableism and racism, which is addressed in these important readings.
- Reflecting on ADA 30 While Reckoning with COVID-19 and Racism
- People with disabilities protest police violence, COVID-19 discrimination
- Disability Rights Activists Take On Twin Pandemics of Racist Police Brutality & COVID-19
- Black Disabled Man in Texas Dies After Being Denied COVID Treatment and Starved for Six Days, Wife Alleges
- A Disability Justice Response to Covid-19
Disabled people as a marginalized group already experience significant economic inequities, which were strongly exacerbated by the pandemic. These articles cover some of the major economic effects that disabled people are continuing to affect disabled people.
- We’re facing a tidal wave of COVID-related disability cases, and we’re not ready
- ‘I Really Loved My Job’: Why the Pandemic Has Hit These Workers Harder
- Disability Employment Challenges & Opportunities Resulting from COVID-19
- A Deadly Poverty Trap: Asset Limits in the Time of the Coronavirus
As learning shifted online, students with disabilities grappled with a lack of accessibility in virtual classrooms. These pieces address some of those challenges.
- Will colleges maintain flexibility for disabled students?
- What Distance Learning With a Disability Is Like
- Accessibility Suffers During Pandemic
The pandemic has certainly taken a collective toll on mental health, and these articles dive into some of the effects and how to cope.
- Mental Health Care Was Severely Inequitable, Then Came the Coronavirus Crisis
- Coping with Suicidal Ideation Among the Uncertainty of COVID-19
Navigating a Virtual World
While moving everything online has opened up access for many disabled people, it has also led to numerous issues with inaccessibility. These articles and resources address accessibility best practices for a remote world.
- Disabled people have worked remotely for years, and they’ve got advice for you and your bosses
- How to Make Your Virtual Meetings and Events Accessible to the Disability Community
- #AccessThat: Creating Accessible Content
- Accessibility: Resources to Help Ensure Accessibility of Your Virtual Events for People with Disabilities
- 4 Elements of an Accessible Meeting Platform
- COVID-19 Response: Digital Accessibility and Other Best Practices for Remote Work
Learning Opportunities for Philanthropy
It’s important to recognize that philanthropy has a lot to learn from the devastating effects of COVID-19 and the changing world that’s resulted from it. These articles and resources address key learning opportunities for everyone in the philanthropic sector.
- The COVID-19 Effect
A conversation between Ryan Easterly, Executive Director of the WITH Foundation, and Dr. Richard Besser, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about how the pandemic has demonstrated that disability inclusion in philanthropy is more crucial than ever.
- Philanthropic Responses to COVID-19: 4 Disability-Inclusive Approaches
Key approaches to disability-inclusion to inform your foundation’s current responses, with examples.
- Webinar – COVID-19 and Disability: A Call to Action for Philanthropy
Hosted on April 22, 2020 by the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy, this webinar highlights leaders in the disability community who are working tirelessly at every level.
- Disabled Americans can’t be a Covid-19 afterthought
An op-ed by Dr. Richard Besser and Rebecca Cokley, Disability Rights Program Officer at the Ford Foundation.
- In Covid-19 Crisis, Philanthropy’s Attention Must Focus on People With Disabilities
An op-ed by Co-Chairs of the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, and Dr. Richard Besser, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor Report highlights catastrophic global failure to protect the rights of persons with disabilities
A report calling for urgent action to protect the lives, health, and rights of persons with disabilities.
- The coronavirus crisis: an unprecedented opportunity to advance authentic disability inclusion in our sector and beyond
A blog post focused on encouraging inclusive solutions as we move forward.
- Easterseals Study on the Impact of COVID-19 on People with Disabilities
A report addressing topics including healthcare, employment, education, and digital access.
- Company Characteristics, Disability Inclusion Practices, and Employment of People with Disabilities in the Post COVID-19 Job Economy: A Cross Sectional Survey Study
A study examining characteristics of work environments and employers who are open to hiring and accommodating people with disabilities.