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COVID-19 is a new disease, and we’re constantly learning more about it, including who’s more likely to get sick.

Most people with disabilities aren’t at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or developing serious sickness from it. Because of underlying medical issues, crowded living circumstances, or systemic health and social disparities, some people with disabilities may be more likely to become infected or suffer severe disease. People with major underlying chronic medical disorders, such as chronic lung disease, a serious cardiac issue, or a weakened immune system, appear to be more prone to become seriously ill from COVID-19. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke are three times more common in disabled individuals than in non-disabled adults.

Risk factors for people with disabilities

  • If you have one of the disabilities listed below, you may be at a higher risk of contracting an infection or developing an undiagnosed illness. You should talk to your doctor about your chances of getting sick.
    • People with limited mobility or who are unable to avoid close contact with others who may be sick, such as direct care providers and family members.
    • People who have difficulty comprehending information or implementing preventive measures like hand washing and social separation.
  • People who may be unable to communicate sickness symptoms.

Take Care of Yourself

If you or someone you care about is at a higher risk of becoming severely ill as a result of COVID-19, take precautions to avoid becoming ill. People with disabilities who have direct support providers can help protect themselves from respiratory infection in the following ways, in addition to taking everyday preventive actions:

  • Inquire with your direct support provider about any COVID-19 symptoms they are having or if they have come into touch with someone who has COVID-19.
    • Before and after touching you (e.g., clothing, bathing/showering, transferring, toileting, feeding), handling tissues, or changing sheets, or doing laundry, they should wash their hands. Learn more about how to properly wash your hands.
    • Counters, tabletops, keyboards, wheelchairs, scooters, oxygen tanks, and doorknobs should all be cleaned on a regular basis (for example, daily or after each use). Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home has further information about cleaning your home on a regular basis and cleaning your home when someone is sick.Inform your direct service provider of the following:


Additional steps that people with disabilities might take to prepare for the COVID-19 epidemic include:

  • Make a plan for what to do if you or your direct support provider becomes unwell. Make a list of relatives, friends, neighbors, and local service agencies who can help if you or your direct support provider falls ill or becomes unavailable.
  • Plan at least two means to communicate quickly from home and work in the event of an emergency (e.g., landline phone, cell phone, text messaging, email). Make a note of this information and keep it with you at all times.
  • Have enough groceries and household things to last a few weeks at home, as well as a 30-day supply of over-the-counter and prescription medications, as well as any medical equipment or supplies you might require. Prescription drugs can be refilled for up to 90 days in some insurance plans. Consider speaking with your doctor about this possibility. Make a copy of the script.

About COVID-19

  • Coronavirus disease is a contagious respiratory infection that can be passed from one person to another. The virus is assumed to transmit mostly by respiratory droplets created when infected individual coughs or sneezes amongst people who are in close proximity to one another (within roughly 6 feet). COVID-19 can also be contracted by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • People in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, such as healthcare personnel, direct support providers, and household members, are at a higher risk of infection. Those who live in or have recently visited an area where COVID-19 is spreading are also at a higher risk of infection.


The easiest method to avoid infection is to adopt preventive measures on a daily basis, such as:

  • Wearing a mask.
  • Keep a distance of at least 6 feet between you and anyone who doesn’t live with you.
  • Stay away from crowded areas and places that aren’t well ventilated.
  • Wash your hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Support from STEP

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the aim to support a disability-inclusive response to the crisis, STEP has launched this hub page to share the most recent updates and resources as they become available.

If you have any updates on how COVID 19 is affecting persons with disabilities in your area of work, or want to share any good practices or lessons learned, contact STEP