The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on People with Disabilities in Delaware


Center for Drug and Health Studies – University of Delaware  – July 2021


Disproportionate Risk. Devastating Impact. Emerging Resilience.

This report explores the experience of people with disabilities in Delaware during the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus from January 1 to December 31, 2020.

One in four adults in Delaware have a disability according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The 198,284 individuals living with a disability in Delaware were disproportionately at risk from COVID-19 during the past year.

To capture the Delaware experience, it is essential to understand the context of the pandemic both nationally and globally. It is also critical to recognize that the profound impacts of the pandemic on our day-to-day lives were felt by all Delawareans, those with and without disabilities. This story, then, is necessarily broad to capture the larger context, but it also is very focused with a lens on the impacts felt by the disability community within the state.

The lives of many people with disabilities are interconnected with support systems to ensure independence. These support systems are fragile and susceptible to disruption when threatened. Shakespeare et al. (2021) suggest that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities is a case of triple jeopardy.

“People with disabilities have been differentially affected by COVID-19 because of three factors: the increased risk of poor outcomes from the disease itself, reduced access to routine health care and rehabilitation, and the adverse social impacts of efforts to mitigate the pandemic.”

This report outlines the findings from delving into a limited number of data sources, listening sessions, and discussions with individuals involved in the COVID-19 response. An online story map is also available to review the findings at STORYMAP COVID 19 Delaware

A myriad of risk factors aligned during the COVID-19 pandemic that made people with disabilities among the most vulnerable segments of the population. The impacts resulted in a devastating loss of life, threatened independence, extended isolation, and disrupted service delivery. As the pandemic comes under control with increased knowledge about transmission and the availability of vaccines, it is possible to look back and identify the fault lines in service systems that exposed people with disabilities to increased risk and the threads of community resilience that emerged to fill in the gaps to protect the most vulnerable.

As Delaware policy makers and community leaders look forward, there is an opportunity to learn from the past year and weave these threads of emerging resilience into a stronger system that will decrease the vulnerabilities and disparities in the system of care and support and make strides to fully protect people with disabilities in future public health emergencies.

View the full 69 page Report in the link below.


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