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COVID-19 advice for people with disabilities

An older man sitting on a couch with his hands on his cane and his head leaning on his hands.

Everyone is at risk for COVID-19. But some groups of people are especially vulnerable to infection, and that includes people with disabilities. Here's why:

Anyone with an underlying chronic medical condition is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. And adults with disabilities are three times more likely than others to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer than adults without disabilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, some people with disabilities might have a hard time:

  • Getting public health information.
  • Taking basic safety measures, like washing their hands or staying 6 feet away from others, especially if they need additional support.
  • Telling others that they feel sick.

Lower your risk of infection

If you have a disability that requires you to have a direct-support provider, tell them to let you know if they have been in contact with anyone with COVID-19. They should also tell you if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.

Also ask your direct-support person to:

  • Wash their hands after coming into your home. They should also wash their hands before and after touching you, or when changing your linens or doing your laundry.
  • Regularly clean often-touched devices like wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, and oxygen tanks and tubing.

Other steps you can take to help protect yourself from COVID-19:

  • Carry hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol with you. Use it if you can't access a sink.
  • Avoid crowds. Buy supplies online or by phone and have them delivered to your home. Or ask family, friends or caregivers to pick up items for you.
  • If you must go to the store, try to go during special hours reserved for people at higher risk of disease.
  • Have enough groceries and medical supplies to last you for at least a few weeks. That includes any medicines you take. Find out if your insurance plan will cover a 90-day refill on prescription medicines.
  • Work from home if possible.
  • Make a plan for what you'll do if you or your direct-support person becomes ill. For instance, write down contact numbers for family, friends and local agencies that can provide support in a pinch.
  • Create a notebook that describes the care you need. It should include:
    • Information about your condition and how it's managed.
    • Contact numbers for your doctors.
    • Insurance information.
    • A list of allergies.
    • A list of your medicines.
    • Your daily routines and activities.
  • Introduce people in your support network to each other. It will help them talk more easily to one another should you become ill.
  • Do you have any dependents, including pets? Make sure family or friends know their care needs should you become ill.
  • Ask family and friends to check in regularly with you, if only to say hello.

Need more information on COVID-19? Check out the stories in our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 4/13/2021

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