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Disabilities and Unique Health Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic
People with disabilities may have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of COVID-19 and COVID-19-related complications or may have particular concerns. Below are some resources to address those concerns, including answers to frequently asked questions.
- Disability Etiquette: Considerations when Working with People with Disabilities (PDF)
- American Sign Language (ASL) Videos for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Response
- Facemasks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Wearing masks may be hard or impossible for some people due to certain disabilities. Masks may make it hard to communicate with others. Find information on masking, including guidance on working with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Disability Hub: Find COVID-19 disability resources available in Minnesota. People are available to answer questions as well. For information related to assistance for housing, food, and other needs, visit the MDH COVID-19 Get Help page.
- Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), People with Disabilities — CDC
- Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs — CDC
- Deaf and hard of hearing — Minnesota Department of Human Services
- Minnesota Council on Disability
- The Arc Minnesota
- Disability services COVID-19 FAQ — Minnesota Department of Human Services
In the event a person in your care gets sick, be sure to have a written emergency plan, including emergency information for the person with unique health needs.
- COVID-19 Vaccine for Youth with Special Needs or Disabilities: Information for Caregivers (PDF)
Includes guidance for requesting accommodations when making appointments or arriving at a vaccine site.
- The C-MIST Personal Planning Tool (PDF)
- Emergency Information Form for Children With Special Needs, American College of Emergency Physicians
A link to download the fillable PDF is at the bottom of the page.
For health professionals
Communication and safety needs of some patients with disabilities may require that a support person be available.
- Best Practices for COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Sites: Disability-related Accessibility
- COVID-19: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communication Access Recommendations for the Hospital - National Association of the Deaf
- Access to Support in Hospital Settings: Patients with Disabilities and Pediatric Patients (PDF)
- Health Care Rationing During the Pandemic and Your Rights
For school staff
Children with disabilities may have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of COVID-19 and related complications. Families may require additional resources and support during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the event a person in your care gets sick, encourage families to have an emergency plan, including emergency Information for the person with unique health needs.
Frequently asked questions
I have a Baclofen pump that needs a refill. I have been told that some people have not been allowed to have that procedure because it is not considered essential. Is this true?
Executive Order 20-09 was issued on March 23, 2020, and rescinded on May 10, 2020. The executive order restricted elective inpatient and outpatient medical procedures in order to conserve critical health care resources. The intent of that order was never to restrict procedures like a Baclofen pump refill, which is necessary to treat the spasticity experienced by people with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and other neurological diseases. We recognize that without such a procedure, a person can experience severe pain and lose the ability to carry out their daily activities. No further executive orders to scale back medical procedures are planned at this time. However, if another order were to be considered, procedures with such time sensitivity and dire consequences for delay would be excluded.
I am hard of hearing and have a hard time when others use a mask. What should I do?
Masks can make communication very hard for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, masks can help decrease the spread of COVID-19.
People may remove their masks when asked to do so by someone who is deaf or hard of hearing if they can keep a safe social distance of 6 feet. A clear mask or plastic face shield can be worn so the face can be seen. People may also use speech-to-text apps, or write notes on paper or mobile devices.
- NCDHHS: Clear Masks for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind NC residents
Refer to the NCDHHS Clear Mask Resource List for options that may be available for purchase.
I am unable to wear a mask. What should I do?
Wearing a mask can help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, for medical and physical reasons, some people cannot wear masks. People who are unable to wear a mask may be able to wear a face shield instead.
If you cannot wear a mask or a face shield, try to stay away from places where you cannot keep at least 6 feet away from others.
- If store customers must wear masks, you may still be able to shop before the store opens or after it closes. Call the store to find out if you can do this.
- Ask family and friends to shop for you.
- Shop online and pick up your items outside at the curb, or have them delivered.
Some employers are placing workers farther apart, putting up plastic screens, and taking other steps so employees can work safely. More information about reasonable accommodations is in the American Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (PDF).
Learn more about Facemasks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
A family member is in a group home. What do I need to know?
If a family member lives in a group setting, it is important to work with the on-site care team. Ask what measures they have in place to protect your loved one from COVID-19 and how they will still meet the needs of your loved one. Sometimes it can be hard to do both, and they may need to change some practices.
My family member is at risk and we need more personal protective equipment for their personal care staff. What should we do?
If you use services through an agency, check with agency staff for access to personal protective equipment. You may also check with medical suppliers about ordering some.
If you continue to have trouble finding the personal protective equipment you need, call the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Public Hotline at 1-833-431-2053.
I am worried that I will not get the care I need because of my disability. How do they decide who gets care when there is not enough to go around?Deciding how to use limited medical resources during a health crisis depends on medical, ethical, community, and resource considerations. In Minnesota, simply having a disability does not make a person less likely than others to get the care they need for COVID-19 or any other health issue. If you need a ventilator for other health issues, it will not be taken from you to extend supplies for others.
Minnesota is using COVID-19 testing and other safety measures to keep people from getting sick all at the same time. This lessens the daily demand for medical resources, so that resources can help keep up with patient needs.
- Ethical Considerations - Crisis Standards of Care
- Patient Care Strategies for Scarce Resource Situations (PDF)
- Health Care Rationing During the Pandemic and Your Rights
I am a caregiver of someone who has a disability that makes communicating very hard. This person would need extra support if they go into the hospital. I have heard that nobody can stay with someone in the hospital who has COVID-19. Is this true?
Hospitals should let at least one support person or legal guardian go to the hospital, visit in the hospital, or stay in the hospital with someone who has a disability or who is a child. Safety methods must be followed. The Minnesota Department of Health has provided guidance to Minnesota hospitals to support the needs of patients with disabilities and pediatric patients.