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People with disabilities may be disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We synthesize the literature on broader health and social impacts on people with disabilities arising from lockdown-related measures. Methods: Scoping review with thematic analysis. Up to mid-September 2020, seven scientific databases and three pre-print servers were searched to identify empirical or perspective papers addressing lockdown-related disparities experienced by people with disabilities. Snowballing searches and experts' consultation also occurred. Two independent reviewers took eligibility decisions and performed data extractions. Results: Out of 1026 unique references, 85 addressed lockdown-related disparities experienced by people with disabilities. Ten primary and two central themes were identified: (1) Disrupted access to healthcare (other than for COVID-19); (2) Reduced physical activity leading to health and functional decline; (3) From physical distance and inactivity to social isolation and loneliness; (4) Disruption of personal assistance and community support networks; (5) Children with disabilities disproportionally affected by school closures; (6) Psychological consequences of disrupted routines, activities, and support; (7) Family and informal caregiver burden and stress; (8) Risks of maltreatment, violence, and self-harm; (9) Reduced employment and/or income exacerbating disparities; and (10) Digital divide in access to health, education, and support services. Lack of disability-inclusive response and emergency preparedness and structural, pre-pandemic disparities were the central themes. Conclusions: Lockdown-related measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic can disproportionally affect people with disabilities with broader impact on their health and social grounds. Lack of disability-inclusive response and emergency preparedness and pre-pandemic disparities created structural disadvantages, exacerbated during the pandemic. Both structural disparities and their pandemic ramifications require the development and implementation of disability-inclusive public health and policy measures.
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International Journal of
Environmental Research
and Public Health
Lockdown-Related Disparities Experienced by People with
Disabilities during the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic:
Scoping Review with Thematic Analysis
Tiago S. Jesus 1,2 , Sutanuka Bhattacharjya 3, Christina Papadimitriou 4, Yelena Bogdanova 5,6,
Jacob Bentley 7,8 , Juan Carlos Arango-Lasprilla 9, 10,11 , Sureshkumar Kamalakannan 12,* and The Refugee
Empowerment Task Force, International Networking Group of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine
Citation: Jesus, T.S.; Bhattacharjya,
S.; Papadimitriou, C.; Bogdanova, Y.;
Bentley, J.; Arango-Lasprilla, J.C.;
Kamalakannan, S.; The Refugee
Empowerment Task Force,
International Networking Group of
the American Congress of
Rehabilitation Medicine.
Lockdown-Related Disparities
Experienced by People with
Disabilities during the First Wave of
the COVID-19 Pandemic: Scoping
Review with Thematic Analysis. Int.
J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18,
Academic Editor: Dikaios Sakellariou
Received: 1 March 2021
Accepted: 17 April 2021
Published: 8 June 2021
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral
with regard to jurisdictional claims in
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Copyright: © 2021 by the authors.
Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and
conditions of the Creative Commons
Attribution (CC BY) license (https://
Global Health and Tropical Medicine (GHTM) & WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Workforce Policy and
Planning, Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, NOVA University of Lisbon, 1349-008 Lisbon, Portugal;
2Department of Occupational Therapy, College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College,
Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA
3Department of Occupational Therapy, Byrdine F. Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions,
Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA;
4Departments of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, and Sociology, School of Health Sciences,
Oakland University, Rochester, MI 48309-4452, USA;
5Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Service, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System,
Boston, MA 02130, USA;
6Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Boston University, Boston, MA 02130, USA
7Department of Clinical Psychology, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA 98119, USA;
8Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, School of Medicine, John Hopkins University,
Baltimore, MD 21205-2196, USA
9IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, 48009 Bilbao, Spain;
10 Biocruces Bizkaia Health Research Institute, 48903 Barakaldo, Spain
Department of Cell Biology and Histology, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, 48940 Leioa, Spain
12 Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), South Asia Centre for Disability Inclusive Development and
Research (SACDIR), Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad 500033, India
Membership of the Refugee Empowerment Task Force, International Networking Group of the American
Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine is provided in the Author Contributions.
People with disabilities may be disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We
synthesize the literature on broader health and social impacts on people with disabilities arising from
lockdown-related measures. Methods: Scoping review with thematic analysis. Up to mid-September
2020, seven scientific databases and three pre-print servers were searched to identify empirical or
perspective papers addressing lockdown-related disparities experienced by people with disabilities.
Snowballing searches and experts’ consultation also occurred. Two independent reviewers took eligi-
bility decisions and performed data extractions. Results: Out of 1026 unique references, 85 addressed
lockdown-related disparities experienced by people with disabilities. Ten primary and two central
themes were identified: (1) Disrupted access to healthcare (other than for COVID-19); (2) Reduced
physical activity leading to health and functional decline; (3) From physical distance and inactivity
to social isolation and loneliness; (4) Disruption of personal assistance and community support net-
works; (5) Children with disabilities disproportionally affected by school closures; (6) Psychological
consequences of disrupted routines, activities, and support; (7) Family and informal caregiver burden
and stress; (8) Risks of maltreatment, violence, and self-harm; (9) Reduced employment and/or
income exacerbating disparities; and (10) Digital divide in access to health, education, and sup-
port services. Lack of disability-inclusive response and emergency preparedness and structural,
pre-pandemic disparities were the central themes. Conclusions: Lockdown-related measures to
contain the COVID-19 pandemic can disproportionally affect people with disabilities with broader
impact on their health and social grounds. Lack of disability-inclusive response and emergency
preparedness and pre-pandemic disparities created structural disadvantages, exacerbated during the
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 2 of 24
pandemic. Both structural disparities and their pandemic ramifications require the development and
implementation of disability-inclusive public health and policy measures.
COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; health equity; social determinants of health; people with
disabilities; public health; healthcare disparities; discrimination; stigma; social inclusion
1. Background
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the severe acute respiratory
syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) strain, emerged in late 2019, and since then has
caused a global public health crisis of unusual proportions. Up to March 16, 2020, there were
over 120 million cases and over 2.6 million deaths confirmed worldwide [
]. However,
the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the unintended effects of the measures to
contain the pandemic (e.g., lockdowns), has not been equal across population groups [
People with disabilities include people who experience, at any given point in their
lifespan, any mobility, intellectual, cognitive, developmental, or sensorial impairments
which in interaction with environmental factors may hinder their daily functioning and
social participation on an equal basis with others [
]. People with disabilities may be
disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This disproportional impact entails
greater risks of being infected (especially for people with disabilities living in residential
or long-term care institutions) or greater risks of having severe health consequences once
infected, including from unethical disadvantages in the access to life-saving treatments [
Furthermore, people with disabilities often require routine health and rehabilitative care
(e.g., at home, outpatient) to maintain or recover their health and function. However,
many of these services were considered non-essential, closed or functioning with important
human and physical resources restrictions during initial lockdowns to contain the pan-
demic [
]. There are widely documented health status, health outcomes, and healthcare
access disparities that people with disabilities have been experiencing for long time
Yet, these forms of health disparities have been widened and exacerbated during the
COVID-19 pandemic [8,14,15].
Additionally, people with disabilities are historically a socially vulnerable (not inher-
ently vulnerable) and marginalized group whose social participation and welfare may
be disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdown, enforced quaran-
tines, and other public health and policy measures aimed at containing the pandemic are
often necessary. When not carefully planned, though, these measures can result in nega-
tive educational, occupational, and socio-economic consequences, which may hit harder
the most socially vulnerable [
], including some people with disabilities [
Therefore, the impact of the pandemic can widen existing health and socio-economic
disparities, if no protective actions focused on the most socially vulnerable are taken as
counter-measures [2,3,1822].
People with disabilities may disproportionally experience the negative health and
socio-economic effects of lockdown-related measures. For example, people with dis-
abilities as a group are more frequently resource-poor, have lower employment rates,
additional health care and living costs, and less disposable income than non-disabled
Furthermore, many people with disabilities often rely on formal and
informal caregivers and social support networks to fulfill basic needs or live independently
in the community; these supports may be disrupted during lockdowns or as result of
quarantines of people with disabilities themselves or their caregivers’ [
]. Finally,
tele-health or tele-schooling solutions were often not prepared to accommodate the needs
of people with disabilities [
], including children with special education needs and their
families, who may be especially affected by school closures [
]. Overall, people with
disabilities regularly experience social participation disparities when they are denied,
excluded, or deprived from an equal opportunity to pursue meaningful occupations, so-
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 3 of 24
cial roles, and social integration, when compared to people without disabilities [
In turn, these social participation disparities directly contribute to broader health dispari-
ties, as participating in meaningful occupations is a key determinant of human health and
wellbeing [34,35].
In conclusion, people with disabilities can be especially vulnerable to negative effects
of lockdown and other public health measures to contain the pandemic, especially when
these measures are not disability-inclusive and not designed to prevent or mitigate any
disproportionate impacts. Within this context, the purpose of this manuscript is to develop
a scoping review of the literature on lockdown-related disparities that people with disabil-
ities experienced in health, social participation, and socio-economic grounds during the
initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, to inform disparities-reduction action from key
stakeholders (e.g., policy makers, public health authorities, civil society).
2. Methods
This paper uses a scoping review method with a thematic analysis as the analytical
approach. The overall scoping review protocol, which covered a whole spectrum of vulner-
abilities people with disabilities may be experiencing during the pandemic, was published
a priori [
]. The disproportional health risks for or consequences of a COVID-19 infec-
tion are reported in another paper [
]. Here, we focus on the broader health and social
disparities arising from lockdown-related measures. In reporting, we use the Preferred
Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews
(PRISMA-ScR) [36].
2.1. Eligibility Criteria
This scoping review included any peer-reviewed empirical, conceptual or perspective
paper (e.g., editorials, commentaries) or preprint empirical studies explicitly address-
ing: (1) the COVID-19 disease or pandemic, (2) people with disabilities as a group, sub-
group (e.g., based on impairment type or underlying diagnostic condition) or related
individual circumstances; and (3) any vulnerabilities or disparities experienced by people
with disabilities in terms of health and socio-economic impacts arising from lockdowns or
other public health and policy measures to contain the pandemic.
Aligned with the content published in the open-access study protocol [
], the Supple-
mentary 1 provides working definitions of people with disabilities and of vulnerability,
including a text-box of illustrative examples of possible individual and multiple social
vulnerabilities to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a means to inform eligibility
decisions. For the scope of the paper, lockdown measures include: stay-at-home orders,
curfews, in-country travelling restrictions, closures of schools and community supportive
services, restriction in accessing welfare services, closures or restricted access to health
services considered non-essential, and restrictions in visitor policies in residential and
long-term care facilities. Related measures included quarantine or self-isolation periods,
any policy or socio-economic measures to prevent or mitigate negative lockdown impacts,
and could address the people with disabilities as well as any formal or informal caregiver
they rely on. We had no geographic restrictions. Also, we searched for papers in six lan-
guages (i.e., English, French, Spanish, Greek, Russian, and Portuguese), yet only full-texts
in English met all the eligibility criteria.
2.2. Information Sources, Search, and Selection
Details of the information sources and search process can be found elsewhere [
In short, up to mid-September, seven scientific databases (Medline/PubMed, Web of
Science, Scopus, AgeLine, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and ERIC) and three preprint servers (i.e.,
MedRxiv, SocArXiv, and PsyArXiv) were searched for to identify empirical or perspective
papers meeting the eligibility criteria. During the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic,
preprint databases have been hosting many studies that have not reached peer-reviewed
publications yet [
]. This option can also help to avoid the exclusion of studies with
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 4 of 24
negative results, which may be published less often or less rapidly. Before the data charting,
we searched for the peer-reviewed version of the included preprints, and have replaced
the record whenever found. The full search strategies for each database were outlined in
the open-access protocol [
], and can be consulted at the Supplementary 1. A snowballing
search process (e.g., author tracking, referenced sources) and key-informants (i.e., members
of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine’s International Networking Group
and Refugee Empowerment Task Force) had the opportunity to provide any additional
references, supplied with a preliminary list of inclusions.
Key elements of the grey literature have been freely-accessible in a repositorium hosted
by the United Nations (
.html, accessed date: 15 December 2020), as identified by our initial searches. With this
information already mapped, the review authors decided not to include this literature [
Two independent reviewers (SK, SB) made eligibility decisions in both titles-and-abstract
screening and full-text assessments, after pilot screenings with over 80% agreements.
Any‘discrepancies were resolved through consensus or the leading author’s (TJ) input.
2.3. Data Charting and Items
One author (SK) extracted formal data elements (e.g., publication type, sources, ge-
ographies addressed), following a pre-defined coding structure elaborated by members
of the team, with a random 5% of the extractions verified by another (TJ). For the content,
two independent reviewers (SK, SB) extracted text quotations on disproportional health
and socio-economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on people with disabilities re-
gardless of having COVID-19 infection, i.e., as a result of lockdowns and other public health
and policy measures to contain the pandemic. These independent extractions were later
paired for the qualitative data synthesis, which was also informed by a brief synthesis of
each paper developed by two reviewers independently. The Supplementary 2 provides the
content of these extractions after being merged (i.e., presented as the combined extractions
of both reviewers), as well as reviewers’ combined synthesis of each paper.
2.4. Critical Appraisal
Quality assessments of methods were not performed as described in the study proto-
col [5], and common in scoping reviews [3840].
2.5. Synthesis of the Results
Simple descriptive statistics (e.g., counts, percentages) were computed to provide a
summative description of the amount and range of the related literature, including publica-
tion type and source, country (or countries), or health conditions or impairments addressed.
For the text quotations extracted, we have developed a thematic analysis [
], synthe-
sizing the complex net of health, socio-economic or participation disparities experienced
by people with disabilities as a result from lockdown-related measures. In this synthesis,
we have developed a new interpretive schema and configuration, inclusive of both pri-
mary and central, overarching themes. To enable this type of qualitative synthesis, out of
mixed-methods data coming from the scoping review, we applied an integrative, data-
based convergent synthesis approach [
], where qualitative and quantitative evidence,
as well as published perspectives, were analyzed using the same synthesis method. In this
case, all forms of data were analyzed qualitatively and together under the same themes,
provided that they addressed the same contents. Specifically, quantitative data were not
numerically aggregated with data from other quantitative papers included, but analyzed in
their meaning and extracted implications, always alongside qualitative data and published
perspectives within the same themes [
]. In short, these different types of information
were qualitatively combined within the same themes, in complement to (e.g., contributing
to the interpretation of) one another.
Finally, to help the reader discern whether the reported material comes from empirical
or perspectives papers, the synthesis explicitly reports a few study characteristics, pop-
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 5 of 24
ulations, or any numerical findings when applicable. Finally, as described in the study
protocol [
], we took a final consultation stage. Supplied with a preliminary version of the
results and its discussion, members of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine’s
International Networking Group and Refugee Empowerment Task Force had the opportu-
nity to comment and provide improvement suggestions over the preliminary results and
their interpretation.
3. Results
Figure 1provides the flowchart of this review. Out of 1027 unique references, 85 are
included in the final analysis, i.e., report findings or rationales for any disproportionate,
lockdown-related health or social consequences for people with disabilities.
Figure 1. PRISMA flowchart of the scoping review with thematic analysis.
Table 1shows how the papers that were analysed are distributed by publication type
and source, by geographical focus, and by the health conditions or impairments addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 6 of 24
Table 1. Quantitative map of the literature analyzed.
Characteristics Number (%) Citations
Perspective papers (e.g., viewpoints, commentaries,
essays, ethics/advocacy) 43 (51%) [9,14,15,27,29,30,4581]
Narrative summary/review (non-systematic) 8 (9%) [8289]
Editorial or Letter to the editor 8 (9%) [9097]
Framework or Experts recommendations 6 (7%) [18,98102]
Non-empirical (peer-reviewed): SUB-TOTAL 65 (76%)
Cross-sectional surveys 4 (4.5%) [103106]
Institutional case report 4 (4.5%) [28,107109]
Pilot feasibility study 2 (2.5%) [110,111]
Ecological study 1 (1.2%) [112]
Survey research, with qualitative analysis 1 (1.2%) [31]
Quantitative analysis of contacts to support services 1 (1.2%) [113]
Analysis of webpages on accessibility compliance 1 (1.2%) [114]
Documentary research and framework analysis 1 (1.2%) [115]
Country case report 1(1.2%) [116]
Empirical studies (peer-reviewed): SUB-TOTAL 16 (19%)
Survey research 3 (3.8%) [117119]
Comparative cross-sectional survey (control group) 1 (1.2%) [120]
Preprint studies: SUB-TOTAL 4 (5%)
No geographical focus
(e.g., applicable across locations) 52 (61%)
United States of America (USA) 10 (12%) [28,30,58,68,83,87,101,
United Kingdom (UK) 9 (10%) [31,47,75,81,103,117
Low- and Middle-Income countries (LMICs) 3 (3.8%) [9,14,53]
Spain 2 (2.5%) [106,107]
Italy 1 (1.2%) [110]
Netherlands 1 (1.2%) [113]
Singapore 1 (1.2%) [108]
South Korea 1 (1.2%) [116]
South Africa 1 (1.2%) [73]
Philippines 1 (1.2%) [82]
India 1 (1.2%) [104]
Asia 1 (1.2%) [84]
Latin America 1 (1.2%) [115]
People with disabilities, Overall 36 (42%)
Adults with cognitive impairment (e.g., dementia) or
intellectual disabilities 16 (19%)
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 7 of 24
Table 1. Cont.
Characteristics Number (%) Citations
Children/youth with disabilities (and their families) 11 (13%) [30,31,53,57,58,77,86,91,
Older adults experiencing disabilities 9 (10%) [63,84,85,89,96,101,102,
Severe Mental Illness 2 (2.5%) [55,104]
Spinal Cord Injury 1 (1.2%) [72]
People with disabilities living in residential or
long-term facilities 1 (1.2%) [108]
Visual impairments 1 (1.2%) [67]
Autism Spectrum Disorder 1 (1.2%) [67]
Cerebral Palsy 1 (1.2%) [62]
Cerebellar Ataxia 1 (1.2%) [100]
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 1 (1.2%) [110]
Parkinson’s 1 (1.2%) [88]
People recovering from joint surgery 1 (1.2%) [87]
Chronic pain 1 (1.2%) [120]
College students with special needs 1 (1.2%) [60]
Among the 85 papers included, 20 (24%) were empirical studies (four of which were
preprints), and the vast majority (76%) were non-empirical (e.g., perspective papers).
Fifty-one papers (61%) had no geographical focus (e.g., were applicable across locations).
When they had a geographical focus, most (19 out of 34) addressed the United States (USA)
or the United Kingdom (UK) context. While 36 (42%) addressed people with disabili-
ties overall (i.e., had no focus on specific health conditions or impairments), a sizeable
amount also has addressed adults with cognitive impairments or intellectual disabilities
(n= 16), children/youth with disabilities and their families (n= 11), and older adults
experiencing disabilities (n= 9). For the actual content of the disproportionate impacts of
lockdown-related measures on people with disabilities, the results of the thematic analysis
are provided below.
3.1. Thematic Analysis—Overview
The thematic analysis of the literature reviewed unravels different types of health
and social participation disparities experienced by people with disabilities relative to non-
disabled counterparts during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of
lockdown-related measures and regardless of a COVID-19 infection.
Figure 2provides a graphic display of our themes. The lockdown-related dispari-
ties were initially organized in 10 primary themes, with complex inter-links as well as
often- blurred limits among one another. Our findings suggest that these 10 disparities are
ramifications that stem from two underlying factors, here framed as central or overarch-
ing themes.
Some of the primary themes (#1 to #5) address specific disparity types, while some oth-
ers (#6 to #8) address consequences from the combinations of these disparities. One theme
(#9) focuses on the vicious circle of additional disparities (e.g., reduced healthcare access)
arising from reduced employment and income. A tenth theme addresses the inaccessibility
of tele-solutions for many people with disabilities, which could partly compensate for
the other disparities. Finally, all these themes stem from two central themes: the lack of
disability-inclusive responses and emergency preparedness, and the structural, socially-
entrenched disadvantages people with disabilities were experiencing before pandemic.
Each of the themes is covered below.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 8 of 24
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, x 8 of 25
People with disabilities living in residential or long-term
1 (1.2%) [108]
Visual impairments 1 (1.2%) [67]
Autism Spectrum Disorder 1 (1.2%) [67]
Cerebral Palsy 1 (1.2%) [62]
Cerebellar Ataxia 1 (1.2%) [100]
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 1 (1.2%) [110]
Parkinson’s 1 (1.2%) [88]
People recovering from joint surgery 1 (1.2%) [87]
Chronic pain 1 (1.2%) [120]
College students with special needs 1 (1.2%) [60]
Figure 2 provides a graphic display of our themes. The lockdown-related disparities
were initially organized in 10 primary themes, with complex inter-links as well as often-
blurred limits among one another. Our findings suggest that these 10 disparities are
ramifications that stem from two underlying factors, here framed as central or over-
arching themes.
Figure 2. Graphic display of the themes.
Some of the primary themes (#1 to #5) address specific disparity types, while some
others (#6 to #8) address consequences from the combinations of these disparities. One
theme (#9) focuses on the vicious circle of additional disparities (e.g., reduced healthcare
access) arising from reduced employment and income. A tenth theme addresses the in-
accessibility of tele-solutions for many people with disabilities, which could partly com-
pensate for the other disparities. Finally, all these themes stem from two central themes:
the lack of disability-inclusive responses and emergency preparedness, and the structur-
al, socially-entrenched disadvantages people with disabilities were experiencing before
pandemic. Each of the themes is covered below.
3.2. Primary Themes
The 10 primary, lockdown-related disparity themes experienced by people with
disabilities during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic are reported below.
Figure 2. Graphic display of the themes.
3.2. Primary Themes
The 10 primary, lockdown-related disparity themes experienced by people with dis-
abilities during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic are reported below.
3.2.1. Disrupted Access to Healthcare (Other Than for COVID-19)
During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare services (e.g.,
outpatient, day services, some in-patient rehabilitation services, assistive devices pro-
grams), essential for people with disabilities (e.g., to maintain or recover health and
function, manage chronic conditions, prevent secondary conditions, benefit from psychoso-
cial support), were either shutdown or operating at a reduced capacity due to lockdown
restrictions. In other words, if they were open, they were operating without sufficient
human resources, beds, or other healthcare resources that were diverted to fighting the
pandemic [9,14,48,71,80,84,107].
People with disabilities had reduced access to in-person healthcare services due to
lack of appropriate transportation during lockdowns [
]. Access to alternative
telehealth solutions was hampered too (details in theme #10), while financial coverage
for healthcare services also can be reduced (details in theme #9). Abrupt disruptions,
reduced operations, and lack of access to key healthcare services result in risks of deteri-
oration and/or exacerbations of previous conditions and impairments, and may drive a
surge in secondary, preventable complications and disabilities [
One recent survey conducted in Spain with 93 older adults with mild cognitive impairment
or dementia, found that 65% of them did not engage in playing memory games during lock-
downs [
]. These games are usually conducted in face-to-face memory workshops and
mitigate cognitive decline; non-attendance thereby may lead to increased or accelerated
cognitive deterioration [106].
People with cerebral palsy faced gaps in accessing healthcare or rehabilitative services
which could not be moved to telehealth because they require the utilization of heavy
equipment, walking aids, or hydrotherapy services. These services are key to maintaining
well-being and to avoiding irreversible contractures and potential deformities [62].
Children with disabilities had diminished access to healthcare services because par-
ents initially feared the consequences of a COVID-19 infection, but also due to the closures
of medical settings, caregiving agencies, and also schools which, in many countries often
provide therapy services [
]. For children with developmental disabilities,
lack of timely access to healthcare services can be particularly detrimental. For exam-
ple, delayed diagnosis and treatment can substantially impact health and development
outcomes [
], especially in children with hearing impairments who benefit from early
stimulation and interventions [77].
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 9 of 24
People with severe mental illness may feel threatened by the presence of masked
providers, interaction with unknown substitute clinicians, and long wait times among
strangers, and therefore may avoid the healthcare system for non-urgent care [55].
People with intellectual or cognitive disabilities hospitalized with any condition
during the COVID-19 pandemic may be particularly impacted by changes such as strict
visitor policies, as relatives cannot optimally facilitate communication with staff to convey
or interpret signs of pain or other symptoms which may be disbelieved or otherwise not
noted by staff, especially during busy pandemic times [27,45].
For low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), significant restrictions in healthcare
access have been reported. In South Africa, rehabilitation services, assistive device and
technology services, therapeutic and developmental interventions, and sign language
interpretation services, among others, were not considered essential, and were thereby
shutdown during initial lockdowns [
]. In India, disabled migrants or refugees and others
without legal documentation faced additional barriers accessing healthcare services under
lockdown restrictions [89].
3.2.2. Reduced Physical Activity Leading to Health and Functional Decline
People with disabilities, especially older adults experiencing disabilities, may experi-
ence sedentary behavior and low physical activity during lockdowns or quarantine peri-
ods [
]. An online, population-based survey in the UK, which involved
5820 adults
(4.33% of whom reported having a disability), available through a preprint publication,
found that disability from one or more activities of daily living (ADLs) was significantly
associated with change toward less intense physical activity behaviors during the initial
lockdowns (odds ratio: 2.13; 95% CI 1.87–2.39) [
]. Additionally, an observational study
conducted in the UK with participants with chronic pain (n= 431) and control participants
(n= 88), available through a preprint publication, found a greater reduction of physical
activity among those with chronic pain (p= 0.001) [120].
Any reduction in physical inactivity or person-level deconditioning can lead to novel
disability risks and exacerbate existing ones [
]. Especially in older individuals
with neurocognitive disorders or other impairments, a forced reduction of motor/physical
activity can cause a progressive loss of personal and instrumental autonomy, as well as
a possible worsening of other aging-related clinical concerns, such as sarcopenia, with a
subsequent increased risk of falls and other complications [78,84,108].
Finally, people with disabilities have been facing greater barriers in reinitiating sport-
related activities post lockdown compared to their non-disabled peers; this may stem
from erroneous ableist notions that disability sports may be ‘inferior’, perhaps leading to
lowering the priority to reinstate disability specific programs [54].
3.2.3. From Physical Distance and Inactivity to Social Isolation and Loneliness
The reduced social participation and loneliness are known risk factors for health-
related consequences and have been shown to increase risk of anxiety, depression, malnour-
ishment, dementia and cognitive decline in older adults [
]. Older adults with
cognitive and sensory impairments, who are already excluded from social participation due
to various reasons, have been asked to distance themselves even further, deepening any
existing isolation [
]. For example, those living in long-term care facilities can be-
come separated from one another and the outside world, and thereby experience profound
isolation and loneliness [51,63].
In turn, with day activity centres and some sheltered workshops being put on hold
during lockdowns, many people with disabilities who live in the community, and rely on
these activities, missed out on these opportunities that provided daily structure as well as
community participation and social inclusion [
]. People with dementia may be among
those who experience isolation due to the disruption of group activities and community
support programs [71,84,90].
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 10 of 24
Apart from older adults with disabilities, people with chronic pain (n= 431) who
participated in a survey study in the UK reported higher loneliness and tiredness ratings
than those in the non-pain group (n= 88), and reported being more likely to self-isolate to
protect themselves from contracting the virus (both p’s < 0.001) [120].
3.2.4. Disruption of Personal Assistance and Community Support Networks
People with disabilities who rely on caregiving or personal assistance to meet their
needs experienced interruptions or discontinuation of this assistance when they were
required to quarantine [
] or when their caregivers/ personal assistants were quar-
antined or fell ill, and were unable to provide continuous support [27,65].
Moreover, people with disabilities who live in the community but need personal
assistance experienced difficulties accessing required medication, food, or assistance in
ADLs (e.g., bathing, dressing, feeding, and toileting needs) [49,72,80,81,84,85,95,101,116].
A preprint survey study in the UK, conducted during the lockdown in April and
involving 2,597 participants aged 70 and over, found that amongst the 511 respondents who
had reported difficulty in performing at least one ADL prior to the pandemic, just seven
respondents reported receiving help with basic personal needs like dressing, eating,
or bathing during the first four weeks of the lockdown. Also, the only subgroup which
was likely to receive less help (i.e., 10% less during the lockdowns) were the older people
in the sample who also reported difficulty with two or more instrumental ADLs (e.g.,
going shopping, doing laundry, paying bills) prior to the pandemic [118].
Without assistance, including transportation, many people with disabilities living in
the community had difficulties leaving their homes to go outside to purchase basic goods
(e.g., food, meals) [
]. In turn, delivery of basic goods to their home, which many
people with disabilities usually rely on in order to remain independent, became less
reliable by the sudden increased demand under lockdown conditions [
]. Communicating
with people who use opaque masks, preventing lip reading, became harder for people
with hearing impairments [
]. People with visual impairments often use either close
assistance or touch to navigate public space, including braille signs and shared surfaces
such as handrails, door handles and handrails on public transport. For these individuals,
compliance with infection prevention measures often implied not leaving their homes [
People with dementia stopped taking their medications, either because they run out
and were unable to refill them, or because of a lack of assistance from formal or informal
caregivers they rely on for compliance with medication regimens [
]. Without assistance,
some people with dementia have greater risk for falls or aspiration pneumonia [112].
For people with disabilities the disruption of social and community support networks
often resulted in hospitalizations without medical necessity, sometimes referred to as ‘social
hospitalization’, or short-term stays in residential facilities, which, in turn, aggravated the
risks of COVID-19 infection [
]. Similarly, people with developmental disabilities re-
mained in local hospitals past the point of medical necessity because of the lack of sufficient
support conditions to return them home safely [70].
3.2.5. Children with Disabilities Are Disproportionally Affected by School Closures
Children with complex physical needs and impairments depend on access to ed-
ucational equipment and professional support, and, for many children, this support is
only available through school [
]. With school service providers and support systems
unavailable, students were sent home with learning packets, which many children with
disability and their parents found it hard to complete without professional support [
Additionally, with limited parental monitoring (e.g., parents teleworking at the same
time), in unstructured environments, youth with disabilities have increased likelihood of
engaging in sedentary activities, such as increased screen time [30].
Disruption of therapies and school services for children with developmental disabil-
ities have led to greater stress and regression in skills compared to non-disabled coun-
terparts [
]. Students with disabilities usually benefit from tailored, structured,
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 11 of 24
and often multi-sensorial educational strategies, and therefore are especially vulnerable
to regression when these services are removed, reduced, or modified to be delivered
by telematic forms [
]. Some children with disabilities who rely heavily on struc-
ture and daily routines (e.g., children with autism spectrum disorder) struggled with
the disturbed routines due to the absence of school and therapy services during lock-
downs [
]. Hence, they often responded with increased severity or intensity of
challenging behaviours [61].
As school services often provide a reliable source of meals, learning opportunities,
social participation, and may serve as supportive environments for the most vulnerable
children with disabilities (e.g., young refugees, young migrants, children living without
parental care, homeless children, children living in urban slums, children in conflict-affected
areas), the closures of schools and inherent support systems (see theme #4) risks bringing
the greatest drawbacks and aggravate existing social and educational disparities for many
children with disabilities [30,69].
3.2.6. Psychological Consequences Arise from Disrupted Routines, Activities, and Support
People with disabilities can be especially vulnerable to numerous psychological con-
sequences of disrupted routines, activities, and support networks (see aforementioned),
as well as stress and anxiety from the fear of contracting an especially harmful COVID-19
infection or from a general lack of understanding of the pandemic and its restrictions.
For instance, under isolation rules, or with prolonged periods indoors, people with
dementia may be without their usual access to community support programs and familiar
routines. This can cause them to become anxious, angry, stressed, and agitated [
and lead to an increased risk for suicidal behaviors [
]. Facing an unknown situation,
a common source of stress in the context of the pandemic, may be even more impactful
for individuals with cognitive impairments [
]. For people with dementia, sleep may
be further disrupted due to anxiety and loss of social rhythms, which is compounded
by a lack of activities and stimulation. These disruptions may exacerbate delirium and
accelerate cognitive decline [
]. Furthermore, people with cognitive impairments can
become confused and disorientated by interactions with caregivers or healthcare providers
wearing masks and protective eyewear [47].
For adults or children with intellectual disabilities, it can be hard to understand the
necessity for the restrictions, e.g., why they can’t receive a hug from a caregiver, which‘may
lead to an increased anxiety, agitation, and challenging behavior [
]. In a
survey study with additional qualitative analysis in the UK, parents (n= 241) described
situations in which a low level of understanding of the pandemic by their children with
disabilities led to distress because they could not understand why everything had changed.
In the cases of minimally verbal children, disorientation was sometimes expressed through
challenging behavior [
]. When caregivers of children with disabilities need to self-
isolate, the change of carers can also generate stress and exacerbation of behavioural
problems [46,78,99].
Individuals with cerebral palsy often have higher rates of anxiety and depression,
which may worsen during a pandemic due to lack of access to regular therapy schedules,
while both increased stress and lack of access to in-person therapy may worsen their
hypertonia [62].
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders may experience emotional problems,
acute anxiety, and disrupted behavior as a result of the disruption of carefully established
routines [46,51,117]. People with autism spectrum disorder who can understand informa-
tion about COVID-19 can become over-focused and subsequently overwhelmed by the
amount of information, risks, and preventive measures, which may heighten their levels of
anxiety and paranoid thinking [46].
For people with severe mental illness, there is heightened risk of relapse because of
high susceptibility to stress under lockdown measures and an overall reduced ability to
cope with stress in disaster situations compared to the general population. For instance,
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 12 of 24
from a sample of 132 persons with severe mental illness surveyed in South India, around
30% of those who were stable before lockdown had a relapse and 22% stopped their psychi-
atric medication due to lack of access to medication and mental health professionals [
Often, the relapse translated into poor hygiene, inability to practice social distancing, de-
lay in seeking medical attention, aggression and increased substance use, as well as suicidal
behavior, the latter expressed by 14.4% of those surveyed [104].
An observational, study (preprint) conducted in the UK found that people with chronic
pain (n= 431) self-reported increases in anxiety, depressed mood, and pain catastrophizing
compared to a sample of control participants (n= 88; all p’s < 0.01) [120].
A clinical interview and survey study in Southern Italy with persons with amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis found that one out of five patients in a sample of 32 experienced a sig-
nificant worsening of quality of life since the start of the quarantine due to behavioral
and sleep disturbances [
]. Behavioral disturbances (anger attacks) and sleep distur-
bances (difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings) were reported in 15% and 20% of
respondents, respectively [110].
In a cross-sectional survey of 269 web-literate persons with self-reported disabilities
and chronic conditions in the United States, moderate levels of stress, depression, and anxi-
ety were found on average, while coping strategies explained a total of 54% of variance
in well-being [
]. After controlling for demographic and psychological characteristics,
participants who had high ratings on active coping, use of emotional support, humor,
religion, and low ratings on self-blame were found to have high ratings on well-being [
A study in the Netherlands about the utilization of an online support service found
that people with intellectual disabilities living independently were contacting the online
support service more often, especially during the first weeks of the pandemic, because they
were considerably worried and experienced high levels of anxiety [113].
Many people with disabilities are worried and fearful about the possibility of being
vulnerable to COVID-19 and its consequences, and that they may not receive equitable
healthcare because of their disability [
]. This fear was intensified by early discus-
sions of the need to ration life-saving medical equipment [
]. Hence, the uncertainty
about access to life-saving treatments and their awareness of existing bias and disability
stigma (including inaccurate ableist assumptions about their quality of life, with impact on
healthcare decisions related to medical rationing) can create anxiety, distrust, and overall
psychological harm to many people with disabilities [18,57,66,67].
3.2.7. Family and Informal Caregiver Burden and Stress
Family and caregiver burden increased as usual supports of residential schools,
day services, respite care or overall community support services for people with disabilities
living partly or full time in the community were unavailable [
]. An increased
number of families needing caregiver support for anxiety and uncertainty was observed as
day programs were closed and stay-at-home orders enforced [68].
As many residential institutions closed, residents were obliged to return to their
families, many of whom lacked the time or means to provide proper care [
]. For those
facilities that remained open, disruption in many support and day services for people
with disabilities (see theme 4) resulted into prolonged hours of caregiving in the context
of decreased psychosocial support for informal caregivers [84]. In addition, families were
often not permitted to visit or even communicate with busy staff in either residential or
hospital facilities, leaving many families without any information on the status of their
family members with disabilities [
]. Many families also worry that the lives of their
family members with disabilities may be devalued and that they may face disadvantage in
any rationing decisions due to disability stigma [52].
School closures added further stress to parents already worried about the pandemic [
As rehabilitation and school services shut down, parents were experiencing insecurity,
abandonment, and anxiety, as they often did not feel equipped to provide their children’s
special education needs. Parents struggled to provide the same level of academic support
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 13 of 24
without relevant training and expertise [
], and struggled with disruptive behaviours
from their children as a result of disrupted routines [
]. In turn, children with certain
developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorder may lack the cognitive flexibility
to understand that parents were trying to play the role of their teachers or therapists during
some parts of the day, which added complexity and stress to these tasks and everyday
life [57].
A qualitative study with 241 parents or carers of school-aged children in the UK
generated several accounts of single parents who were isolated during lockdowns with a
child with disabilities who displayed disruptive behaviour without access to any of the
support and respite that usually would help them to fulfill their parental role effectively.
These feelings were exacerbated by worries about who would look after the child if the
parents died as a result of COVID-19 [31].
3.2.8. Risks of Maltreatment, Violence, and Self-Harm
The COVID-19 pandemic magnified existing barriers facing people with disabilities
who are experiencing interpersonal violence [
]. These barriers include reliance on the
perpetrator for care and assistance, difficulty reporting abuse and seeking help, and fear of
retaliation and other negative consequences if abuse is reported [74].
By isolating older adults with disabilities from community support networks, they re-
main in closer contact with their caregivers, under stressful circumstances, which increases
susceptibility to violence, abuse and neglect [
]. With care and support being restricted by
the pandemic, people with dementia, for example, have higher chances of being subject
to neglect and abuse [
] and to develop delirium and aggressive behaviors leading to
self-injuries [112].
Children with disabilities are also at a great risk for maltreatment due to the closure of
schools or child protective services (e.g., which exert some social control of these risks),
disrupted routines, socio-economic strain within the family environments, and/or an
limited ability to communicate [
]. Also, restriction of travels between households,
with consequent loss of support from extended family members, adds to the challenge of
parenting children with disabilities in lockdown contexts [
]. The disruption of routines
among children with disabilities can lead to self-harm [61].
Empirical research from a pool of 44,775 participants in the UK surveyed during
March—the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic—indicated that 7.0% reported a dis-
ability. In turn, compared to the whole sample, those with a disability reported higher
levels of: psychological abuse (18.4% versus 8.3%), physical abuse (9.2% versus 2.9%),
self-harm/suicidal thoughts (48.0% versus 17.8%), and self-harm behaviors (17.8% versus
4.9%) [103].
In South India, a telephone survey conducted during the initial phase of the pandemic
found that, among a sample of 132 people with severe mental illness, 63.6% reported they
were experiencing verbal and physical aggression from others [
]. In an April 2020 virtual
meeting of physicians specializing in pediatric rehabilitation medicine, anecdotal reports
existed of increased referrals for non-accidental trauma affecting children, suggesting a
risk of increasing domestic violence and abuse possibly arising from contextual variables
such as families under financial stress from employment challenges, psychosocial stress
from being isolated from the community support structure, and overall anxiety about the
ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic [58].
In the context of telehealth support, it may be difficult for people with disabilities to
truly be in a private location when talking to providers as a means to report abuse [
Given that people with disabilities already experience lack of employment much more
often than those without a disability, the financial consequences of this crisis (see the
following theme) may be magnified and lead to both increased reliance on the perpetrator
and increased difficulty in mitigating the effects of abuse because of a lack of financial
resources [74].
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 14 of 24
3.2.9. Reduced Employment and/or Income Exacerbating Disparities
Many people with disabilities have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, which can
put them at economic hardship. Since small businesses and non-profit organizations are
mostly closed, their employees with disabilities, some under supported employment,
have been furloughed indefinitely, while many workers with disabilities have not been
transitioned for remote work [
]. People with disabilities in LMICs, especially woman,
often work in the informal sector, facing food insecurity and the absence of sick leave
or unemployment benefits [
]. Economic implications of the pandemic lead to loss of
employment predominantly for those with precarious jobs, in which people with severe
mental illness or other disabilities are overrepresented, thus adding financial stresses,
housing and food insecurities [55].
In Australia, the Coronavirus Supplement paid to those receiving unemployment bene-
fits have excluded those receiving Disability Support Pension [
]. In Chile, disabled people
who received a disability pension were not entitled to the COVID-19 cash transfer that
was meant to help the most vulnerable populations [
], even though expenses likely
increased as a result of the pandemic [
]. For instance, as telehealth platforms become
commoditized, the accommodation costs may be transferred to vulnerable populations
such as people with disabilities, who may not be able to afford them [
]. Moreover, peo-
ple with disabilities in South America might not be able to navigate the typically complex
documentation processes for obtaining compensation for these accommodations [
This is an issue that has been common across many LMICs [
]. Overall, the lack of wel-
fare protection for many People with disabilities in South America, previously in place,
have been exacerbated during emergency situations [115].
In many LMICs, a large proportion of people with disabilities live in single-income
households (e.g., household members may forgo work to provide caregiving support),
therefore the COVID-related unemployment (e.g., of the person earning the single house-
hold income) provide economic hardship [
]. Furthermore, while the allotment of people
with disabilities-targeted cash transfers is often controlled fully by others in their house-
hold, people with disabilities’ entitlements may not be used for their own sake [
]. Finally,
people with disabilities who became unemployed during the pandemic may also take
longer to re-enter the workforce with the ease of restrictions, due to stigma, inaccessible
environments, and poor access to education and training that limit job opportunities [14].
In some countries, the loss of medical health coverage or benefits associated with em-
ployment is also of concern for people with disabilities, as this reduces one’s ability to pay
for prescription medication, hence causing non-adherence or even discontinuation of key
medication regimens [
]. In addition, there are extraordinary pressures on public budgets
from increased spending and reduced tax revenue as a result of the economic consequences
of the pandemic. This may put many people with disabilities, especially those of lowest
income, at risk of not being able to access safety-net services such as those under Medicaid
in the US due to stricter eligibility criteria [
]. Furthermore, operations of Medicaid-
funded nursing homes and home care services are likely to be greatly affected because
low-income and African-American communities disproportionately represent the direct
care workforce and these communities have experienced higher rates of infection [
The increasing unemployment and loss of health insurance resulting from the pandemic
threatens healthcare access for children with disabilities [30].
3.2.10. Digital Divide in Access to Health, Education, and Support Services
People with disabilities often have had greater difficulties accessing or benefiting from
these services due to lack of access to or accommodations in digital solutions. During the
pandemic, the consequences of this lack of access has been exacerbated since telematic
forms of service delivery and support have become more widely used as a complement or
replacement of in-person services and care.
Many people with dementia had no access to the Internet or an electronic device,
or sometimes no supporter (e.g., a family member) to assist them with the use of the
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 15 of 24
technology to access remotely-delivered support services or care (e.g., cognitive stimula-
tion) [
]. Similarly, access to telehealth services for people with cerebral palsy during the
pandemic often involved the need for mediators for these services to be accessible [
Exclusion criteria for telemedicine visits often include the inability to provide informed
consent, which can prevent the use of telemedicine for people with advanced cognitive
dysfunction, and those who need an interpreter, for example [
]. In turn, cognitive and
sensory impairments reduce the ability to provide seamless care via video visits if no
proper accommodations are provided [56].
Older adults experiencing disability are among those who need special protection
during the pandemic, such as physical distancing, and hence may benefit from telematic
services. However, many older adults experiencing disability face challenges with the
access to and the usability of mobile information and communication technology [
Broadband fast internet is inaccessible in many rural and low-income communities as well
as in developing countries, thereby telemedicine access for people with disabilities living
in these communities is suboptimal [
]. Children with disabilities living in poverty
might not have electronic equipment or access to tele-schooling activities [
]. People with
severe and persistent mental illness may not have access to the internet or the literacy skills
to benefit from telehealth solutions [55].
In Southern Italy, video visits were offered as a telehealth solution, but refused by
many people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis because the large majority of participants
did not own a computer or smartphone but rather only a cell phone; this digital divide
limited physical examinations via telehealth [
]. Apart from the pandemic, the swift
transition of primary healthcare provision from in-person to tele-consultations has led
many people unable to access services for regular check-ups, presumably due to lack of
literacy and access to appropriate technology [98].
The lack of universal design and web accessibility standards in telemedicine platforms
often exclude people with disabilities [
]. Overall, there is a lack of accessibility
extensions such as screen readers, sign language, captions, magnification, color, and con-
trast [29]. Similarly, most telemedicine platforms do not have custom features to facilitate
healthcare communications for persons who are deaf or blind or for persons with cognitive
impairments, and there is a dearth of health education materials for persons with language
and literacy challenges [
]. Finally, providers who are utilizing telemedicine may not
understand and be able to address the accessibility issues even if the systems are designed
correctly [29].
The digital divide does not apply only to missed opportunities for telehealth solutions.
During lockdowns, many people with disabilities could not make online purchases as
they may not have credit cards, Internet, or electronic devices, or due to the lack of
universal design of relevant websites [
]. College students with special needs faced added
difficulties in terms of accommodation and online virtual learning (e.g., students who
need paper and pencil tests or assistive technologies to access testing materials cannot
necessarily test in their usual ways) [60].
3.3. Central Themes–Underlying Contributors
3.3.1. Lack of Disability-Inclusive Response and Emergency Preparedness
The presence of disability-inclusive emergency pandemic preparedness could have
prevented or mediated aforementioned disparities, at least partly. Yet, the reviewed
literature emphasized either a limited or no emergency or contingency planning addressing
people with disabilities’ needs, applicable to the pandemic situation [49,69,91,116].
One of the reasons for lack of preparedness is lack of data (e.g., surveillance data)
on people with disabilities, which has been limited both before and during the pan-
demic [
]. Although disability status should be considered important demo-
graphic information (e.g., to assess any disproportional impacts), these data are not system-
atically collected or included in official reports [
]. Current COVID-19 estimates among
people with disabilities have come from assisted living facilities, in which the disability
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 16 of 24
status of residents is sometimes documented [
]. However, these data represent only
a fraction of the population with disabilities [
]. Failure to accurately record disability
status on the death certificate prevents the understanding of the full effect of the pandemic
on this population [
]. As a result, there is little information that allows public health
experts to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with disabilities and the
appropriate, equity-oriented public health and policy responses [45].
Despite recommendations for local governments to include people with disabilities in
the planning, integration, and implementation of emergency programs (e.g., regarding the
access to education, employment, and healthcare services), people with disabilities haven’t
been typically included [
]. In South Africa, although COVID-19 disaster management
committees were established prior to issuing lockdown measures, no disability advocates
were involved, which may have contributed to the negligence of disability-related issues in
COVID-19 responses [73].
3.3.2. Structural, Pre-Pandemic Disparities Exacerbated during the Pandemic
As a seminal theme on the intricate net of causes of the aforementioned disparities
(Figure 1), it is important to recognize that people with disabilities faced structural, socially-
determined disadvantages pre-pandemic, and that these have been exacerbated during
the pandemic.
It has been noted that the lack of timely access to quality healthcare is a structural
disparity commonly faced by people with disabilities, aggravated and exposed during
the pandemic [
]. Similarly, it has been argued that wider disparities faced by people
with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic arise from pre-pandemic discrimination,
marginalization, ableism, ageism, sexism, and stigma leading to human rights and social
participation deprivation among many people with disabilities [
]. The exclusion of people
with disabilities and disability-related issues among disaster or emergency preparedness
is a long-standing issue [
]. The limited surveillance data and data on People with
disabilities’ needs, unmet needs, experienced disparities or circumstances has been limited
both before and during the pandemic [45,49,69,97].
By the same token, the lower priority attributed to disability sports pre-pandemically
was reflected into the way sports were considered in a pandemic context, and possible in
the future, as well [
]. The COVID-19 pandemic magnified the interpersonal violence
People with disabilities often experience [
]. The divide in the access of digital solutions,
with either universal design or specific accommodations, has been an issue for many
people with disabilities prior to the pandemic, albeit possibly more devastating as the
society needed to further rely on tele-health, tele-work, or tele-schooling solutions [
Reduced employment and income is common among people with disabilities in non-
pandemic times, and might have been aggravated during the pandemic [80,115]. There is
a need to examine the underpinnings of existing health disparities and the values and
beliefs of existing social and political systems that created inequities for people with dis-
abilities [
]. These structural disadvantages are being further experienced now, but likely
will remain after the pandemic if the opportunity for reform is not seized [80,82].
Overall, this review suggests that the pandemic has exacerbated disparities faced by
people with disabilities. The ramifications of these disparities essentially reflect structural
societal barriers that require transformational change in societies, not merely responses
that mitigate the exacerbation of disparities during major public health crises.
4. Discussion
This scoping review synthesized a whole range of inter-linked health, social partic-
ipation, and socio-economic disparities that people with disabilities experienced during
the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of lockdown-related measures. Peo-
ple with disabilities experienced restricted access to health, education, and community
services that are essential for them, including meeting basic life and functional needs.
They also experienced risks of maltreatment, psychological consequences (e.g., from dis-
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 17 of 24
rupted routines and activities), and difficulties accessing digital solutions that are not
inclusive of their needs. Their families and informal caregivers also experienced a dis-
proportionate burden and stress. In turn, reduced employment and income exacerbated
existing socio-economic disparities, and limited access to needed services. This analysis
suggests that all these pandemic disparities arise from the lack of disability-inclusive re-
sponses and preparedness, and seminally from socially-determined disparities that people
with disabilities have been experiencing for long time.
Lockdown-related disparities faced by people with disabilities showed to be manifold,
significant, and intricate. As a result, explicit public health and policy responses aimed to
prevent or mitigate them are necessary, and would need to address health, social participa-
tion, and socio-economic disparities in tandem. When problems are systemic, the solutions
must be too. An integrative development of health and social policies is needed in the
current pandemic context [
], and these integrated policies should be disability-
inclusive [
]. Disability-inclusive plans to prepare for and respond to a
pandemic seems absolutely required, informed by research on typical needs and disparities
faced by people with disabilities, such as those here synthesized, and involving people with
disabilities and their advocates in their development and monitoring [
The distinct themes and sub-themes identified and presented through this analysis
are intricate and interconnected. For example, added risks to maltreatment, negligence,
or abuse toward people with disabilities arise due to service closures, across a range
of the health, educational and social sectors. These closures removed key supportive
services and part of the societal control over maltreatment, which could not be replaced by
digital solutions that are not designed to be used independently by people with disabilities.
In turn, the disruption of extended family or community support networks also contributed
to an increased caregiving burden, which can turn maltreatment more likely. Finally,
harder economic conditions can also lead to increased family stress and a greater reliance of
people with disabilities in the perpetrator, within the household. These factors, addressed
in multiple themes, illustrate how themes can be inter-dependent.
Indeed, in this context of multiple, mutual, and intricate relationships, effective policy
responses cannot be fragmented, e.g., need to be intersectoral, to address, at the same time,
the whole set of factors that contribute to disability disparities.
Themes addressed here were not specific to impairment type. For example, even when
children with disabilities were addressed by a specific theme, related to schooling, this in-
volved the lifespan and a related occupation rather than impairment or disease categories.
A similar rationale applied to the context of social isolation, lack of (physical) activity,
or loneliness of older adults with disabilities. When specific impairments or diagnostic
categories were addressed within a theme, regarding a specific vulnerability, the theme
applied similarly to other subgroups of people with disabilities facing comparable social
circumstances regardless of impairment type. This underscores the importance of structural
and social determinants, including social determinants of health, rather than the individual,
impairment, or disease nature of the identified disparities.
From the central themes in our analysis, it is suggested that lockdown-related dis-
parities experienced by people with disabilities often arise from structural disparities that
people with disabilities were experiencing before the pandemic, and were exacerbated
thereafter. In turn, the structural disparities often arise from stigma, ableism, discrimina-
tion, and marginalization of people with disabilities-still prevalent in societies, which lead
to the social exclusion of people with disabilities and have contributed to the diverse
disability disparities observed during the COVID-19 pandemic [
]. Hence, fun-
damentally addressing the disability stigma and discrimination in societies can contribute
to address the structural determinants of disparities experienced by people with disabilities,
during pandemics and beyond.
Many health and support services for people with disabilities might be considered
essential during lockdowns, and contingency plans should be in place (e.g., in institutions,
municipalities, official agencies, civil society) for mitigating any disruption in community
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 18 of 24
or professional support for people with disabilities. These and other responses can address
the pandemic-specific ramifications of disability disparities. However, these actions should
be supplemented by more fundamental societal changes for a systemic, extra-pandemic
use of universal design principles (e.g., not only in architecture or urban planning but
also in others sectors such as health policies and social policies [
]) as well as by any
specific accommodations (e.g., accessibility options [
]). The pandemic challenges
have turned existing disability disparities more noticeable, hence opening an opportunity
for systematic action that must be seized. For example, the development of disability-
inclusive telehealth, telework, and other digital platforms may increase the livelihood,
health, participation, and social inclusion of people with disabilities for the ‘new normal’
after the pandemic [29,62,80].
Our results describe lockdown-related disparities often experienced by community-
dwelling people with disabilities. In our first scoping review based on the same data,
we found a unique vulnerability (for health risks and consequences of a COVID-19 infec-
tion) amongst people with disabilities living in residential or long-term care settings [
Greater levels of social isolation of people with disabilities living in the community can
partly protect from infection risks, but at the cost of other disproportionate health, social,
participation, and socio-economic unmet needs. Pandemic control policies need to account
for both infection and lockdown-related risks, and include effective counter-measures that
prevent or mitigate the unintended, disparate, and systemic consequences for people with
disabilities of any needed lockdown measures [4,18].
Finally, only a few of the included papers addressed specifically the LMICs. One of
the likely reasons is the paucity of disaggregated data for disability in many LMICs,
which prevents the accurate identification of the many type of disparities likely experienced
by people with disabilities in LMICs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Strengthening data
systems, across sectors, to ensure disability-specific, readily available data could be the first
step toward disability-inclusiveness in public health and policy responses to emergency
events, and beyond to address established disparities people with disabilities typically face
in LMICs in non-pandemic times, as well.
These results should be interpreted in the light of the following limitations: This review
addressed only the peer-reviewed or preprint literature (excluding the grey literature)
available up to mid-September 2020, roughly equating to data and perspectives from
the first-wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, only a few empirical studies have been
found, longitudinal data is lacking, and only a small fraction of the included papers
address the LMICs. It is important to develop further studies and systematic or scoping
reviews, with extended time and geographical coverage, in these important but seemingly
under-researched matters.
As typical in scoping reviews, this work did not involve quality appraisals of meth-
ods, which combined with the presence of preprint studies, albeit signposted, lead to
careful interpretation of the few existing studies. Non-empirical papers were included,
which provided key rationales and occasional qualitative accounts, or illustrative examples,
of disparities faced by people with disabilities. These were essential elements to build
our thematic results in addition to, and in dynamic complement with, the empirical liter-
ature; however, these perspectives should be carefully interpreted. The same applies to
the preprint studies, which were not peer-reviewed; therefore, their findings should be
interpreted with caution, as well.
Finally, although we discuss some strategies are provided to policy-makers and public
health stakeholders (e.g., considering the multiple and inter-linked disparities at the same
time for an integrative planning) to prevent or mitigate the identified disparities, here we
do not address a set of actions that can be taken for disability-inclusive preparedness and
responses to pandemic events.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6178 19 of 24
5. Conclusions
Lockdown-related measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic can disproportionally
affect people with disabilities in health, educational, social support, social participation,
and socio-economic terms. These disparities influenced one another, and arguably so
as public health inequities and occupational injustices are often determined by social
determinants of health and occupation [
]. Hence, public health and policy in-
terventions, including social policies, might be planned and coordinated across sectors,
and address the whole range of mutually-reinforced, lockdown-related disparities that peo-
ple with disabilities have been experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Indeed, our review of lockdown-related disparities also determined that lack of disability-
inclusive response and emergency preparedness as well as that pre-pandemic disparities
created structural disadvantages which were further exacerbated during the pandemic.
Both structural disparities and their pandemic ramifications need to be addressed by
disability-inclusive public health and policy measures.
Supplementary Materials:
The following are available online at
.3390/ijerph18126178/s1, Supplementary 1: Working definitions and search strategies. Supplemen-
tary 2: Data extractions and the reviewers’ brief synthesis of each paper.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization: T.S.J. and S.K.; Methodology: T.S.J., S.K., S.B., Y.B.,
J.C.A.-L., J.B., C.P., and Refugee Empowerment Task Force & International Networking Group of
the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine; Data Curation: S.K., S.B., and T.S.J.; Writing—
Original Draft Preparation: T.S.J.; Writing—Review & Editing: S.K., S.B., Y.B., J.C.A.-L., J.B., C.P., and
Refugee Empowerment Task Force & International Networking Group of the American Congress of
Rehabilitation Medicine; Supervision: T.S.J.; Project Administration: T.S.J.; Funding Acquisition: S.K.
All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
This work was supported by the DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance Fellowship [grant
IA/CPHE/16/1/502650], awarded to Dr. Sureshkumar Kamalakannan.
Institutional Review Board Statement: Not applicable.
Informed Consent Statement: Not applicable.
Data Availability Statement: Not applicable.
We would like to express our gratitude to Barbara Gibson, University of Toronto
and Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, ON,
Canada, for her insightful comments on the early versions of this manuscript. We would also like to
thank the India Alliance DBT-Welcome Trust for their funding support.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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... During COVID-19, PWD reported changes in the availability status of support services (e.g., personal attendant care, medical care, employment-related services), which were impacted by social distancing protocols (Na & Yang, 2022). Persons with PWD often utilize support service providers to assist with their activities of daily living (e.g., bathing, dressing, feeding) or other personal needs (e.g., employment maintenance, medication access; Jesus et al., 2021). PWD reported being unable to receive support services because of COVID-19 social distancing precautions and protocol provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.-b;Jesus et al., 2021). ...
... Persons with PWD often utilize support service providers to assist with their activities of daily living (e.g., bathing, dressing, feeding) or other personal needs (e.g., employment maintenance, medication access; Jesus et al., 2021). PWD reported being unable to receive support services because of COVID-19 social distancing precautions and protocol provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.-b;Jesus et al., 2021). PWD frequently use supported employment services to obtain and maintain integrated employment (Drake et al., 2021). ...
... Housing, a reported social determinant of health, and related housing concerns are presented as additional stressors for PWD throughout COVID-19 (Jesus et al., 2021;Rolfe et al., 2020). The National Council on Disability (NCD, 2021) reported that COVID-19 created housing issues for many individuals, specifically a lack of accessible housing subsidies leaving "nearly 400,000 people with disabilities living in the streets, in shelters" (p. ...
The first case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States in January 2020. To date, the U.S. reports more than 87 million confirmed cases and more than 1 million related deaths. In the U.S., published research suggests that COVID-19 transmission and prevention practices presented challenges for people with disabilities regarding job status and access to services. To explore the impact of COVID-19 on employment and service provision for persons with disabilities (PWD), the authors performed a systematic review of published quantitative and qualitative studies conducted in the U.S. from January 2020 through December 2021. From the 19 identified studies, findings were grouped into three themes: employment, quality of life, and coping. The impact of COVID-19 and other adverse events (e.g., global pandemic, supply chain issues, financial recession, hurricanes, flooding, wildfires) on the provision of vocational rehabilitation services and employment outcomes for persons with disabilities should be further explored. Based on review findings, the COVID-19 Lived Experiences Scale for Persons with Disabilities (CLES-PWD) was created to understand the experiences of PWD in terms of their employment, quality of life, and coping. The CLES-PWD can serve as a tool for vocational rehabilitation professionals when providing employment planning to enhance employment outcomes.
... They face stigma, inequity, Various studies have documented health impact during the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled individuals, most of them being literature reviews. [5][6][7][8][9] But there is limited or absence of emergency planning addressing the needs of disabled people, applicable for pandemic situation. [3,10,11] The United Nations released a policy brief to ensure disability inclusion for COVID-19 response and recovery. ...
... Navas et al., 2020 [40] Spain IDD Mixed method Villani et al., 2020 [41] Italy DS Pre-post comparison Emami et al., 2021 [42] Iran DS Case control Biyik et al., 2021 [43] Turkey CP Longitudinal Cacioppo et al., 2020 [44] France Physical disability Cross-sectional Amorim et al., 2020 [45] Portugal ASD Cross-sectional Khan et al., 2021 [46] Qatar ASD Cross-sectional Collizi et al., 2020 [47] Italy ASD Cross-sectional Zhang et al., 2020 [48] China ADHD Cross-sectional Shen et al., 2020 [49] China ADHD Cross-sectional Sciberras et al., 2020 [50] Australia ADHD Cross-sectional Becker et al., 2020 [51] USA ADHD Cross-sectional Navas et al., 2021 [52] Spain IDD Cross-sectional Wang et al., 2021 [53] China ASD Cross-sectional Faccioli et al., 2021 [54] Italy Motor, visual, hearing, activities Cross-sectional Cankurtaran et al., 2021 [55] Turkey CP Cross-sectional Dhiman et al., 2020 [56] India CP, ASD, ADHD, DS, learning disability, developmental delay, GBS, Hereditary spastic paraplegia, spina bifida five qualitative, [1,2,16,25,43] three were secondary analysis, [3,5,8] and mixed methods, [12,22,26] respectively, two were longitudinal, [9,29] and case control studies [7,28] respectively, and one was pre-post comparison. [27] Impact on physical, psychological, and social health status Challenges were faced by disabled individuals in acquiring or repairing support equipment or aids, transport, psychosocial issues. ...
... A scoping and thematic review conducted by Jesus et al. identified similar themes. [7] Disruption in access to healthcare and rehabilitative services among PWD was reported in other reviews. [8,12] In line with findings, various studies identified the need of comprehensive disability-inclusive recommendations or policy. ...
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Knowing that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the resultant lockdowns severely curtailed the mobility and accessibility to healthcare services for people with disability (PWD); the objective was to explore the impact and challenges faced by different disabling conditions among PWDs. A systematic review was conducted using online databases on impact or effect of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. Forty-three articles were included. Studies on different disability conditions reported reduced access to healthcare and rehabilitative services due to lockdown during the pandemic. There was reduction in physical activity; increased behavioral problems; poor compliance to preventive measures; and they experience anxiety, fear, depression, stress, loneliness, social isolation, and financial crisis. Their families and caregivers also experienced adverse emotional, economic, and social consequences of the pandemic. The study highlights need for mass sensitization, mobilization of services and creating awareness for adaptation and implementation of comprehensive disability inclusive guidelines.
... A study conducted among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities highlighted that more frequent support or contact from family members would have helped to feel better during the lockdown [37]. Other studies have suggested that the voluntary assistance from relatives and friends compensated for lack of certain services, such as home help [37,38]. However, it was not unanimous among participants in this study. ...
... This study highlighted that PWD experienced delays and disruptions in services during the pandemic, which has been supported by the literature [14,15,38,41]. However, these delays and disruptions in obtaining services have been particularly difficult for PWD since they already experienced challenges in obtaining high quality health care before the pandemic [42]. ...
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the province of Quebec, Canada implemented stringent measures to mitigate virus transmission, which considerably affected the life of people with disabilities (PWD). The objective of this study was to explore the experiences of PWD during the first year of COVID-19 restrictions across the province. Participants who self-identified as having a disability in the Ma Vie et la pandémie study (MAVIPAN) were invited to participate in a semi-structured interview between December 2020 and May 2021. A mixed inductive and deductive approach was used to conduct a thematic analysis using NVivo 12. Forty PWD from Quebec, Canada participated in the interviews (mean [SD] age, 55.4 [15.5] years, 50% women). A deterioration in mental health and a reduction in social contact with loved ones were reported. PWD experienced delays and cessation of health services and reported feeling at risk of contracting severe strains of COVID-19 because of their health condition. Enhanced difficulties experienced by PWD and the lack of consideration specific to PWD by public authorities during COVID-19 was particularly concerning for participants in this study. Future studies should explore the value of implementing social programs specifically targeting PWD to enhance support as the pandemic continues.
... Human contact was reduced, and people were forced to stay in their houses as one of the health measures in dealing with the coronavirus spread. Quarantines, if not carefully planned, can have negative socioeconomic consequences, particularly for the most socially vulnerable people, including some people with disabilities (Jesus et al., 2021). ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning of 2020 to the end directly affected the health and general well-being of people with disabilities—the world’s largest minority, constituting approximately 15% of the world’s population. People with disabilities are more severely affected by the institutional barriers during the COVID-19 crisis. In Macedonia, there is no accurate data on the condition of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this study was to document the impact of COVID-19 on Macedonian persons with disabilities. According to this study, the primary source of support for people with disabilities was their families (72.3%). Friends were less pointed as a source of support (19.6%). From a total of 112 people with disabilities, included in this research, 41.1% answered that they had reduced social interaction due to the pandemic. In general, most people with disabilities stated that they were concerned about the additional cost of food and medicine and that they feared a possible infection with COVID-19.
... The analysis of factors related to and predictive of access to health services among chronically ill older adults with physical disabilities found that social support, perceived benefits and age were statistically correlated and could predict access to health services. This result is consistent with previous studies that found that social support and perceived benefits are associated with access to health services for elderly people with disabilities [31,32]. Social support is a key variable in describing older adults' access to health services. ...
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Chronically ill older adults with physical disabilities frequently face difficulties in their daily lives and require essential health service access, especially in the COVID-19 context. This study aimed to examine the association between social support, perception of benefits due to disability and access to health services among chronically ill older adults with physical disabilities during this crisis in Thailand. A total of 276 chronically ill older adults with physical disabilities were included in this cross-sectional study. Self-reported questionnaires were assessed through multi-stage random sampling. Correlations between the independent variables and health service access were examined using multiple regression analysis. Of the respondents, 159 were female (59.6%). Most participants perceived benefits (58.8%) and access to health services (56.2%) at good levels, while social support was at a moderate level (47.9%). Stepwise multiple regression analysis showed that social support (β = 0.351), perception of benefits (β = 0.257) and age (β = 0.167) were positively correlated with health service access. The findings are relevant for health care providers and multi-professional teams, who should enhance older adults’ social support and perception of benefits to improve their access to health services, particularly among chronically ill older adults with physical disabilities, in the era of COVID-19.
... De acordo com a Organização das Nações Unidas para a Educação, a Ciência e a Cultura ([UNESCO], 2020), 1,57 bilhão de crianças e jovens tiveram impacto negativo em sua formação escolar devido aos problemas educacionais ocasionados pela pandemia (Dobinson et al., 2021;Kumar et al., 2021). Esses problemas são ainda mais intensos para os indivíduos com deficiência (Jesus et al., 2021;Kennedy et al., 2021;Sutton, 2020), uma vez que estes já possuem menos oportunidades de acesso a uma educação de qualidade em todos os níveis de ensino e pouco preparo para o mercado de trabalho (Abou-Abdallah & Lamyman, 2021;Cook, 2017;Jashinsky et al., 2021). ...
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RESUMO: Com o anúncio da pandemia pela Covid-19, o isolamento social e o fechamento das escolas foram algumas das medidas adotadas para conter o contágio do coronavírus, levando a uma crise educacional mundial. Como medida reacionária, é esperado que estratégias pedagógicas tenham sido criadas para amenizar os impactos educacionais vigentes na educação dos surdos e dos deficientes auditivos. Com objetivo de traçar as principais potencialidades e fragilidades de ações e de estratégias educacionais no ensino desses indivíduos no período pandêmico em 2020 e 2021, realizou-se uma revisão bibliográfica pela busca sistematizada na plataforma da Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (Capes), utilizando as palavraschave “education”, “pandemic” e “deaf”. As principais dificuldades no ensino remoto consistiram na falta de acesso a materiais e tecnologias para participação nas aulas, principalmente em países mais pobres, e a escassez de professores e de intérpretes em língua de sinais. Foi possível identificar que as plataformas digitais, as tecnologias assistivas (legendagem, tradução em tempo real, materiais didáticos acessíveis para surdos, entre outros), a capacitação e a alfabetização de pais, alunos e professores em língua de sinais foram protagonistas como sugestão de enfrentamento. No entanto, a participação do Estado na formação e na capacitação de professores e de tradutores intérpretes de Língua Brasileira de Sinais (Libras) são extremamente necessárias para o alcance da Educação Bilíngue inclusiva.
... Findings of these studies have shown that the rapid changes in social life associated with restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus resulted in increased anxiety in families of children with disabilities and negatively impacted the mood and behaviors of both children and their families (Asbury et al., 2021;Gayatri and Irawaty, 2021). In addition, the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus have interrupted the educational and support services children with disabilities and their families have been receiving (Jeste et al., 2020;Warner-Richter and Lloyd, 2020;Jesus et al., 2021). Researchers have also noted that inability to receive educational and support services much needed for these children and families can increase the stress level of parents (Navas et al., 2022;Werner et al., 2022) and cause behavior problems and challenges in children (Narzisi, 2020). ...
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Objective The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the quality of life of families of children with disabilities and the mediating roles of perceived social support, perceived parental self-efficacy, psychological health, psychological resilience, and perceived family burden on this relationship. Background Children with disabilities and their families are among the most affected populations from the restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus, as the special education and rehabilitation services they had been receiving were interrupted. Method A correlational survey design was used to collect data from 824 parents of children with disabilities in Turkey. Path analysis was used to examine the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19 on family quality of life. Results Results indicated that COVID-19 had a significant total effect on family quality of life and perceived social support, parental self-efficacy and psychological resilience had a mediating role on the relationship between impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and family quality of life. Perceived social support was found to the strongest mediator of the relationship between the impact of COVID-19 and the family quality of life, while perceived family burden did not have a statistically significant association with these variables. Conclusion Family quality of life for children with disabilities decreased as the impact of COVID-19 pandemic increased. Perceived social support, parental self-efficacy and psychological resilience had mediating roles in the relationship between the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and family quality of life. Implications COVID-19 has resulted in disruption of special education and rehabilitation services for children with disabilities and their families. Changes in daily routines have brought up additional responsibilities to parents of children with disabilities. These additional responsibilities may adversely affect and increase the burden and stress families of children with disabilities experience. The high levels of stress in families negatively affect the welfare and quality of life and result in decreased parental attention to support their children. Findings of this study show the mediating link of perceived social support, parental self-efficacy and psychological resilience in the relationship between the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and family quality of life. Policymakers and service providers should develop and implement specific care actions to support children with disabilities and their families during and after the pandemic.
... Given that individuals with SCI are often directly impacted by gaps in the healthcare system due to their dependence on healthcare services to meet daily needs, it is unsurprising that the effects of a global pandemic may be amplified in this population [9,10]. Due to stay-at-home and social distancing orders, access to personal care attendants (PCAs), medical supplies, mental health support, and other healthcare services were restricted for individuals with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic [11]. Furthermore, shortages in provisions led to rationing of medical supplies which may have disproportionately affected individuals with disabilities, such as SCI [10,12]. ...
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Study design: Cross-sectional, observational study. Objectives: To determine whether changes in essential care during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted satisfaction with activities, participation, and relationships among individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). Setting: Data were collected online between December 31, 2020 and February 14, 2021 among community dwelling adults with SCI (N = 123). Methods: The primary outcome variables were satisfaction with the ability to complete activities of daily living (ADLs) (mobility, dressing, feeding, and toileting), as well as satisfaction with participation in household and recreational activities, and satisfaction with relationships among friends, family, and with the status of one's relationship measured with the International Spinal Cord Injury Data Sets Activities and Participation Basic Data Set. Primary predictors were age, gender, time since injury, completeness of injury, injury level, access to mental health, access to medications, access to medical supplies, and access to personal care assistants (PCAs). Results: Impact on access to mental health and impact on access to supplies were the most common factors affecting satisfaction with activities, participation, and relationships for individuals with SCI during the COVID-19 pandemic. Impact on access to PCAs/homecare was also found to impact certain outcomes including feeding and participation in household activities. Conclusions: Future supply chain disruptions from pandemics or natural disasters could have wide-reaching effects for individuals with SCIs. Thus, further research and advocacy is needed to improve mental health care planning and supply chain access during subsequent natural disasters.
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Background: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among people with physical disabilities might differ between countries due to differences in implemented measures and infection rates. This study aimed to understand the impact of the pandemic on physical activity (PA) and social isolation among adults with physical disabilities in Canada and the Netherlands, and examine associations between PA and social isolation. Methods: Secondary data from two studies were used: the Canadian COVID-19 Disability Survey (n = 353) and the Dutch Rehabilitation, Sports and Active lifestyle (ReSpAct) 2.0 study (n = 445). Self-reported PA was measured using IPAQ-SF and Adapted-SQUASH. Social isolation was measured using the PROMIS Social Isolation. Descriptive and regression analyses were performed. Results: Canadian participants spent on average 163 min (Median = 0; IQR = 120) on moderate-to-vigorous PA per week and Dutch participants 934 min (Median = 600; IQR = 1125). In Canada, 64% reported to have become less physically active since the pandemic compared to 37% of Dutch participants. In both samples, no clinically relevant associations were found between PA and social isolation. Conclusions: The findings emphasize the negative impact of the pandemic on PA and social isolation in adults with physical disabilities in Canada and the Netherlands. Future research is needed to better understand if and how PA can be used to reduce social isolation in people with disabilities. This study illustrates how cross-country collaborations and exchange provide opportunities to inspire and learn from initiatives and programs in other countries and may help to improve PA support among people with disabilities during and after the pandemic.
Background: Individuals with Down syndrome are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are recognised as significantly immunocompromised. Yet their voices regarding their lived experiences of pandemic lockdowns have not been sought or heard. Aim: This study aims to describe the lived experiences of people with Down syndrome during the pandemic lockdowns in Aotearoa New Zealand to add evidence in order to inform systemic advocacy. Method: A mixed-methods approach positioned within an inclusive research paradigm was used, in which a group of self-advocates with Down syndrome co-designed a structured interview schedule and conducted 40 face-to-face interviews. Key themes were identified by using content analysis. Results: Despite the difficulties associated with lockdowns and participants not receiving their usual supports and having to make significant adjustments, they remained positive, adapted well, and demonstrated a high level of resilience and adaptability. Conclusions: The findings add to the limited research on the lived experiences of people with Down syndrome during pandemic lockdowns. This research has given them a voice to contribute to policy, government initiatives, and service providers; particularly on issues around support during lockdown and staying connected with others.
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This study aims to synthesize the literature on any disproportionate health risks or consequences of a COVID-19 infection for people with disabilities. Scoping review with a descriptive thematic analysis was carried out. Up to mid-September 2020, seven scientific databases and three preprint servers were searched to identify empirical or perspective papers. Snowballing searches and expert' consultations also took place. Two independent reviewers were used for the screenings and data extractions. Of 1027 references, 58 were included, 15 of which were empirical articles. The thematic analysis showed that: (1) People with disabilities living in residential or long-term care facilities were more likely to have greater infection rates; (2) Intersecting mediators of greater infection risks were multiple (e.g., lack of accessible information); (3) People with disabilities often face greater health problems when infected; and (4) Unethical disadvantages in the rationing of lifesaving and critical care can be experienced by people with disabilities. Conclusions: Beyond any health-related vulnerabilities (e.g., comorbidity rates), multiple yet modifiable environmental factors can provide disproportionate health risks and consequences of a COVID-19 infection for people with disabilities. Public health and policy measures must prevent or reduce modifiable environmental risks.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to stark relief, and further exacerbated, social disparities, including those experienced by disabled people, a global population of over 1 billion people, according to 2010 global population estimates [1]. Disabled people experience entrenched structural disadvantage, including barriers to accessing health care, increased poverty, lower employment, and lower education levels, in comparison to the general population [1].
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The South Korean media boasts of its leading success–during the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak–in flattening of the curve thereby mitigating the grave outcomes of the public health crisis. Much of the success is reportedly attributed to the rapid and advanced development of test kits, essential equipment and implementation of protocols in precautionary measures. However, it has been an arduous task to stay afloat for one particular vulnerable community. The disabled citizens of Korea were confronted by the realities of health inequity during this disastrous period. Pre-existing the pandemic onset, the disabled community have faced stigmatization and under many circumstances de-prioritization by their own society. Through the lense of a visiting physician, my hope is to poignantly and respectfully share personal experiences and thoughts on these realties impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea.
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Objective: The objective of this paper is to describe the updated methodological guidance for conducting a JBI scoping review, with a focus on new updates to the approach and development of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews (the PRISMA-ScR). Introduction: Scoping reviews are an increasingly common approach to informing decision-making and research based on the identification and examination of the literature on a given topic or issue. Scoping reviews draw on evidence from any research methodology and may also include evidence from non-research sources, such as policy. In this manner, scoping reviews provide a comprehensive overview to address broader review questions than traditionally more specific systematic reviews of effectiveness or qualitative evidence. The increasing popularity of scoping reviews has been accompanied by the development of a reporting guideline: the PRISMA-ScR. In 2014, the JBI Scoping Review Methodology Group developed guidance for scoping reviews that received minor updates in 2017 and was most recently updated in 2020. The updates reflect ongoing and substantial developments in approaches to scoping review conduct and reporting. As such, the JBI Scoping Review Methodology Group recognized the need to revise the guidance to align with the current state of knowledge and reporting standards in evidence synthesis. Methods: Between 2015 and 2020, the JBI Scoping Review Methodology Group expanded its membership; extensively reviewed the literature; engaged via annual face-to-face meetings, regular teleconferences, and email correspondence; sought advice from methodological experts; facilitated workshops; and presented at scientific conferences. This process led to updated guidance for scoping reviews published in the JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis. The updated chapter was endorsed by JBI's International Scientific Committee in 2020. Results: The updated JBI guidance for scoping reviews includes additional guidance on several methodological issues, such as when a scoping review is (or is not) appropriate, and how to extract, analyze, and present results, and provides clarification for implications for practice and research. Furthermore, it is aligned with the PRISMA-ScR to ensure consistent reporting. Conclusions: The latest JBI guidance for scoping reviews provides up-to-date guidance that can be used by authors when conducting a scoping review. Furthermore, it aligns with the PRISMA-ScR, which can be used to report the conduct of a scoping review. A series of ongoing and future methodological projects identified by the JBI Scoping Review Methodology Group to further refine the methodology are planned.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a deluge of publications. For this cross-sectional study we compared the amount and reporting characteristics of COVID-19-related academic articles and preprints and the number of ongoing clinical trials and systematic reviews. To do this, we searched the PubMed database of citations and abstracts for published life science journals by using appropriate combinations of medical subject headings (MeSH terms), and the COVID-19 section of the MedRxiv and BioRxiv archives up to 20 May 2020 (21 weeks). In addition, we searched, Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, EU Clinical Trials Register, and 15 other trial registers, as well as PROSPERO, the international prospective register of systematic reviews. The characteristics of each publication were extracted. Regression analyses and Z tests were used to detect publication trends and their relative proportions. A total of 3635 academic publications and 3805 preprints were retrieved. Only 8.6% (n = 329) of the preprints were already published in indexed journals. The number of academic and preprint publications increased significantly over time (p<0.001). Case reports (6% academic vs 0.9% preprints; p<0.001) and letters (17.4% academic vs 0.5% preprints; p<0.001) accounted for a greater share of academic compared to preprint publications. Differently, randomized controlled trials (0.22% vs 0.63%; p<0.001) and systematic reviews (0.08% vs 5%) made up a greater share of the preprints. The relative proportion of clinical studies registered at, Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, and EU Clinical Trials Register was 57.9%, 49.5%, and 98.9%, respectively, most of which were still "recruiting". PROSPERO listed 962 systematic review protocols. Preprints were slightly more prevalent than academic articles but both were increasing in number. The void left by the lack of primary studies was filled by an outpour of immediate opinions (i.e., letters to the editor) published in PubMed-indexed journals. Summarizing, preprints have gained traction as a publishing response to the demand for prompt access to empirical, albeit not peer-reviewed, findings during the present pandemic.
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Lockdown measures have been introduced worldwide to contain the transmission of COVID-19. However, the term ‘lockdown’ is not well-defined. Indeed, WHO’s reference to ‘so-called lockdown measures’ indicates the absence of a clear and universally accepted definition of the term ‘lockdown’. We propose a definition of ‘lockdown’ based on a two-by-two matrix that categorises different communicable disease measures based on whether they are compulsory or voluntary; and whether they are targeted at identifiable individuals or facilities, or whether they are applied indiscriminately to a general population or area. Using this definition, we describe the design, timing and implementation of lockdown measures in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. While there were some commonalities in the implementation of lockdown across these countries, a more notable finding was the variation in the design, timing and implementation of lockdown measures. We also found that the number of reported cases is heavily dependent on the number of tests carried out, and that testing rates ranged from 2031 to 63 928 per million population up until 7 September 2020. The reported number of COVID-19 deaths per million population also varies (0.4 to 250 up until 7 September 2020), but is generally low when compared with countries in Europe and North America. While lockdown measures may have helped inhibit community transmission, the pattern and nature of the epidemic remains unclear. However, there are signs of lockdown harming health by affecting the functioning of the health system and causing social and economic disruption.
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Objectives: We assessed whether lockdown had a disproportionate impact on physical activity behavior in groups who were, or who perceived themselves to be, at heightened risk from COVID-19. Methods: Physical activity intensity (none, mild, moderate, or vigorous) before and during the UK COVID-19 lockdown was self-reported by 9,190 adults between 2020-04-06 and 2020-04-22. Physician-diagnosed health conditions and topic composition of open-ended text on participants' coping strategies were tested for associations with changes in physical activity. Results: Most (63.9%) participants maintained their normal physical activity intensity during lockdown, 25.0% changed toward less intensive activity and 11.1% were doing more. Doing less intensive physical activity was associated with obesity (OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.08–1.42), hypertension (OR 1.25, 1.10–1.40), lung disease (OR 1.23, 1.08–1.38), depression (OR 2.05, 1.89–2.21), and disability (OR 2.13, 1.87–2.39). Being female (OR 1.25, 1.12–1.38), living alone (OR 1.20, 1.05–1.34), or without access to a garden (OR 1.74, 1.56–1.91) were also associated with doing less intensive physical activity, but being in the highest income group (OR 1.73, 1.37–2.09) or having school-age children (OR 1.29, 1.10–1.49) were associated with doing more. Younger adults were more likely to change their PA behavior compared to older adults. Structural topic modeling of narratives on coping strategies revealed associations between changes in physical activity and perceptions of personal or familial risks at work or at home. Conclusions: Policies on maintaining or improving physical activity intensity during lockdowns should consider (1) vulnerable groups of adults including those with chronic diseases or self-perceptions of being at risk and (2) the importance of access to green or open spaces in which to exercise.