Canadians with Intellectual Disabilities Invisible and Forgotten in the COVID-19 Crisis

April 16, 2020

The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) media release entitled “Invisible and Forgotten in the COVID-19 Crisis: Canadians with Intellectual Disabilities” is a statement that articulates Inclusion Alberta’s own views of government action during the pandemic.

Included and linked below, the CACL media release reflects the views of Inclusion Alberta and our input to the provincial government given what we have been repeatedly asking for in terms of support of individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and those who provide support. However, as with the federal government, our provincial government has failed to adequately respond. In fact, the Alberta government has done less than other provinces, some of which have allocated millions of dollars more to support children and adults with developmental disabilities in response to COVID-19 while our government has yet to act.

In addition to recently announcing millions of dollars for Caregivers Alberta and tens of millions for mental health helplines and online programs, the government could be directly reducing the fear and anxiety of individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and those staff who show up every day to provide support in people’s home by:

  • increasing the supports available to individuals and families;
  • reassuring families their existing funding and supports will continue unchanged or be increased as needed during the crisis;
  • increasing the wages of disability support workers;
  • providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
  • planning for sustained staffing, and;
  • providing isolation accommodations as needed, in contrast to the government suggesting individuals with developmental disabilities be chemically restrained to keep them quiet and confined.

It is striking and speaks volumes as the government responds to one vulnerable sector after another but remains silent in responding to the needs and vulnerability of individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and the unsung heroes who are there every day supporting individuals in their homes and group living arrangements in every effort to keep individuals and themselves safe.

You can read the news release at the CACL’s website or below.

Invisible and Forgotten in the COVID-19 Crisis: Canadians with Intellectual Disabilities
For Immediate Release
April 16, 2020
Toronto, ON

While Canadians are well informed of seniors’ vulnerability to COVID-19 and all too aware of its devastating and life-threatening impact, the same cannot be said for individuals with intellectual disabilities, leaving them in harm’s way.

The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and its provincial and territorial associations have been raising the alarm and pleading for governments to act and protect the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities, just as they have for other vulnerable populations. Governments have rightly committed to protecting those who are homeless, people experiencing domestic violence, and seniors yet remain unmoved by the comparable needs and risks of people with intellectual disabilities.

However, to the virus, individuals with disabilities are neither invisible nor forgotten. As families and those who provide support to people with intellectual disabilities, we are forced to conclude that individuals with intellectual disabilities are not equally valued and their lives are expendable.

“The blatant disregard of the value of my daughter’s life and others with intellectual disabilities is unconscionable and should never have been possible in this country,” stated Robin Acton, CACL President and parent of an adult daughter with intellectual disabilities. “Every day across this land, politicians and health authorities attempt to reassure us. With each passing day, my daughter and others with intellectual disabilities remain invisible and forgotten. My anxiety and fear mounts.”

Whether they live in their own homes, with their families, group homes or residential facilities, the vast majority of individuals with intellectual disabilities require personal support workers. Without these supports their very lives are at risk at the best of times, so it should not be difficult to understand their vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cannot fully isolate from others due to their disabilities or living arrangements and therefore have a higher risk of contracting the virus.

The personal support workers who continue to provide support are among the many unsung Canadian heroes, yet remain unrecognized and unsupported. They are deserving of additional wages as they risk their lives in the support of vulnerable Canadians. They continue day after day in their commitment to be in the homes of individuals with disabilities, without essential guidance from health professionals, access to needed protective personal equipment (PPE), or measures to address COVID-19’s impact when it strikes an individual they support and/or themselves. These resources and measures, which need to be available to families as well, must be brought to bear today, not tomorrow.

Although proposals have been made to government by CACL and its member associations, plans still do not exist to ensure a trained workforce is available when individuals or staff become ill or to provide alternative living arrangements for those who require isolation. Government is only taking action when there is a COVID-19 crisis in a residential facility. As a result, lives will be lost which might otherwise have been saved.

Recently, Minister Carla Qualtrough announced the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group to which Krista Carr, CACL Executive Vice-President was appointed.

Mrs. Carr stated, “I will be seeking a nationally coordinated approach with the provinces and territories that is immediately responsive to individuals with disabilities, their families and those who support them to ensure they are no longer invisible, forgotten, or treated as if their lives do not matter.”

The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) is a national federation of 13 provincial-territorial associations and over 300 local associations working to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with an intellectual disability and their families. CACL leads the way in building an inclusive Canada by strengthening families, defending rights, and transforming communities into places where everyone belongs.