The Disproportionate Effects of COVID-19 on Disabled People

Sara Vaamonde,
January 18, 2020
         The whole world found their lives uprooted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, and various groups of people found themselves more at risk than others. There was a heavy focus on the impact COVID-19 would have on the elderly and immunocompromised within the media, but disabled people as a whole were often left out of the limelight. This was done regardless of the fact that many disabled people identify with one or both of those two groups; elderly and immunocompromised. Our work at Accesso has already shown the cracks in the GTA’s disability awareness and support inside stores and malls, but this pandemic has pulled back the curtain on the cracks in disability support nationwide. The economic impacts of COVID-19 will leave disabled people disproportionately affected on a deep financial level.

According to Statistics Canada, “In 2011, the employment rate of Canadians aged 25 to 64 with disabilities was 49%, compared with 79% for Canadians without a disability.” Not only that, but those with disabilities made considerably less than those without and were less likely to hold management positions. The cost of living is higher for those with disabilities, and government disability checks simply do not always cut it, especially if they are already making less to begin with, or just unemployed entirely. A disabled person may find themselves living paycheck to paycheck, relying on government assistance or monetary help from family and friends to afford the drugs that keep them alive, as not all drugs are covered by insurance. Additionally, things such as prosthetics, wheelchairs, chair lifts, and other necessary items in a disabled person’s life can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars and are almost never covered by insurance. Those bills go on and on, and they don't even include basic expenses such as food, rent, or utilities.

            49% of Canadian workers found their jobs affected due to COVID-19. 40% lost their jobs temporarily, while 11% lost them permanently. What happens now to those who relied on their job income to cover their disability expenses? Will CERB ever be enough to cover the endless necessary fees needed to give a disabled person a proper quality of life? As CERB is phased out this September, is there even a guarantee that everyone’s jobs will suddenly be replaced to make sure there is still a stable income? These are scary questions for someone living with a disability to ask themselves, even scarier because there may just be no answers. The systems in place may not be enough, and so it is on us as a community to rally together during these immensely challenging times to protect our most vulnerable communities, disabled people included.