Responses to the coronavirus pandemic must be alert to its disproportionate impact on people with disability, and their carers. COVID-19 does not affect everyone equally and indeed people with disability may face greater risk of infection and complications due to underlying health conditions, like chronic diseases, respiratory illness and other co-morbidities. The needs of, and reasonable adjustments required for, people with disability during this difficult period, including access to health care, therapeutic services and regular medications and health supplies, must be considered. Additional support, such as communication aids and assistive technology, may be required to facilitate the inclusion and participation in decision-making for people with compromised understanding, intellectual disability, dementia or those with a memory impairment.

Physical distancing restrictions have caused anxiety about continuity of essential support by family, friends and support workers, as well as accessibility of therapeutic and responsive mental health services in the face of increasing demand. The wellbeing of those living in closed residential facilities, many of which remain in lockdown with restrictions on visits from family, friends, advocates, and Official Visitors, must also be maintained and subject to appropriate oversight.

The Disability Information Helpline is available on 1800 643 787 to provide information and referrals to people with disability who need help because of COVID-19. If you are experiencing or aware of abuse, neglect or exploitation of someone with a disability, you may be able to make a complaint to the Commission or, as a first step, discuss options with us to address your concerns.

Resources about COVID-19 and people with disability:

ACT Human Rights Commission – Complaints about abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable Canberrans

Official Visitor for Disability Services – Complaints and visits during COVID-19

Women With Disabilities ACT – COVID-19 updates and resources

NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission – Coronavirus information for people with disability

Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability -Statement of Concern – Response to the COVID-19 pandemic for people with disability (26 March 2020)

Disabled People’s Organisations Australia – Statement of Concern – COVID-19: Human rights, disability and ethical decision-making

Australian Human Rights Commission – Bringing a disability lens to the COVID-19 health policy response (May 2020) Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Ben Gauntlett on the profound impacts of isolation measures on people with disabilities

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – COVID-19 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Guidance