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Coronavirus Pandemic

Survey supports Canadians with disabilities during COVID-19 pandemic

Portrait of cute girl with down syndrome laughing happily while playing with mother at home

COVID-19 pandemic has created an entirely new set of challenges for the more than 6.2 million Canadians with disabilities, says UBC Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis.

While physical distancing and other public health measures such as face masks have become staples of daily life, researchers and community-support organizations are sounding the alarm over the potential health impacts and greater support needed for Canadians living with disabilities.

“We are deeply concerned for the many people struggling with increased social isolation and reduced access to programs that support their physical and mental health and overall well-being,” says Martin Ginis, director of the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management based at UBC Okanagan. “We need to fully understand the scope and complexity of these challenges as the pandemic continues for the foreseeable future.”

The growing knowledge gap has led UBC researchers to team up with Ontario-based disability resource organization the Abilities Centre. Together they have launched a national COVID-19 disability survey as part of the Access Project, an Abilities Centre response to crisis recovery aimed to support all Canadians.

“While the full health impact of COVID-19 may take years to fully understand, the immediate needs of Canadians living with disabilities must be addressed,” says Stuart McReynolds, president and chief executive officer with the Abilities Centre. “The survey findings will greatly assist government and community organizations to determine key priorities and areas of support.”

The survey, led by Abilities Centre staff along with UBC researchers Martin Ginis, Joan Ubeda Colomer and Femke Hoekstra and Queens’s University researcher Amy Latimer-Cheung, will give a voice to many Canadians living with a disability. Data from the survey will help evaluate and enhance new policies and community support programs.

All Canadians who identify as having a disability—such as physical, cognitive or sensory— or having a child or family member living with a disability in their household are asked to share their unique experiences and concerns while navigating COVID-19.

To ensure accessibility, this survey is available in French, English and American Sign Language. Additionally, this survey formatting includes headings suitable for screen reader software, increased font size and colour contrast.

Martin Ginis says there is also an opportunity for participants to complete an additional series of questionnaires describing circumstances while public health measures remain in place. Their feedback will directly impact how policymakers, businesses and organizations across Canada develop policies, processes and services through the lens of accessibility and inclusion.

“This is an opportunity for people with disabilities to share how their experiences in accessing services during COVID-19 has impacted their physical, mental and social health,” says Martin Ginis. “It’s imperative the voices and concerns of Canadians living with disabilities are reflected in the public health response to COVID-19.”

To participate in the COVID-19 Disability Survey, visit: abilitiescentre.org/disabilitysurvey. For more information, contact: disabilitysurvey@abilitiescentre.org or call 1 866 639 1858.

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