Recent models from ProPublica, Imperial College, and others predict that millions of people who contract COVID-19 will be hospitalized and many hospitals across the country may not be prepared to treat the influx of patients.
People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to impacts from COVID-19, both directly and indirectly. While data about how this virus will impact the health and well-being of people with disabilities is currently limited, people with disabilities are often at greater risk of chronic health conditions, and thus may be more susceptible to infection. People with disabilities also face disruptions in services for daily needs, which could exacerbate conditions unrelated to COVID-19.
Overall, individuals who experience disability are at greater risk for being hospitalized either because they have contracted COVID-19 or because pre-existing health conditions have worsened.
Understanding the needs of a community is imperative to effectively plan for any type of emergency response, be it natural disaster or a pandemic. As people around the world are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of people with disabilities should not be overlooked or go unaddressed as members of those communities. To assess the impact of COVID on people with disabilities and their needs, it’s important to understand the prevalence of disability by the functional limitations of people living with disabilities experience in their communities.
According to the American
Community Survey, about 41 million, or 13%, of Americans have at
least one type of disability (ACS 2015). The vast majority (38 million) live in
households with other people and a significant number of people with
disabilities live in group quarters, which includes dormitories, nursing homes,
Approximately 78 million people without disabilities live in
households with a member who experiences a disability. This means that nearly
25% of the US population lives in a household with a member with a disability.
In order to create policies and programs that serve the needs of
people with disabilities in rural communities, it is important to know things
about them, such as demographic information and location. The federal
government maintains several large data sets that collect this information.
However, it can be difficult to access rural disability data from these data
sets (see Data Limitations in the American Community
Survey: The Impact on Rural Disability Research).
To address this, RTC:Rural is conducting rural analyses of
existing large data sets to contribute to a national disability statistics
RTC:Rural researchers Andrew Myers, Dr. Bryce Ward, Dr. Jennifer Wong, and Dr. Craig Ravesloot recently published a paper in the journal Social Science & Medicine titled “Health status changes with transitory disability over time.” Myers is a RTC:Rural Project Director, Dr. Bryce Ward is the RTC:Rural Statistician, and Dr. Ravesloot is RTC:Rural Research Director. Dr. Wong is a former RTC:Rural Research Associate and University of Washington research fellow.
RTC:Rural’s Disability in America State Profile
Map Series is well underway! We have maps for 17 states posted on
the website so far, and more are coming soon. In the next two months general
disability maps for every state (for example, Montana
and Puerto Rico
will be complete and available on the RTC:Rural website. Once the general
disability rate maps are completed, we will work to produce maps showing different
topics for each state. These include:
Disability rates among females and males
People with vision, cognitive, mobility, self-care, and Independent Living difficulties
Veterans with disabilities
People with disabilities in poverty
Employment, unemployment, and out of labor force rates among people with disabilities
The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act (ACA) and adoption of Medicaid expansion was associated with substantial
increases in insurance coverage across the United States (see Changes
in coverage and access, MACPAC 2019). However, RTC:Rural
researchers wanted to know how ACA policy changes and Medicaid expansion impacted
people with disabilities, particularly those who live in rural areas.
To explore this question, RTC:Rural researchers analyzed
microdata from the 2008-2013 American Community Survey
Using these data, they were able to compare how insurance coverage has changed
over time for people with and without disabilities in rural and urban places,
and in expansion and non-expansion states.
Understanding the needs of a
community is imperative in order to effectively plan for natural disaster
emergency response. As Hurricane Dorian heads toward the Florida coast,
national, state and local community emergency planners are working to evacuate
and shelter thousands of people who are fleeing their homes.
People with disabilities are one of
many vulnerable groups especially at risk during natural disasters. In times of
emergency, people will evacuate with their households, and will need to shelter
with their households. It is not acceptable to separate families and households
in times of crisis. Many family
members are caregivers, so shelters need to be accessible so
that people with disabilities and their families and caregivers can stay
Nearly 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act people with disabilities still report transportation as a significant barrier to employment, health care, and community participation. This is especially true in rural communities where public transit may be inaccessible, unaffordable, inappropriate, or not available. While many unique solutions exist, there is a lack of evidence about how people use them and how they impact the health and well-being of people with disabilities.
To address this lack of knowledge, RTC:Rural is conducting
research about rural transportation options in rural communities across
RTC:Rural is excited to share that we’re relaunching #MapMonday, our weekly map series. Every Monday, we’ll share a new map on our social media channels. Follow RTC:Rural on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn so you don’t miss a map! (But don’t worry if you do miss one—they’re all available on our website).
In the coming weeks, we’ll share maps with overall disability rates, disability rates by difficulty and functional limitation (such as vision, hearing, mobility, and self-care difficulty), veterans, poverty, and employment rates. Continue reading →
In December 2018 the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2013-2017 American Community Survey summary data. In the recently released fact sheet “Employment disparity grows for rural Americans with disability,” RTC:Rural researchers used this data to begin exploring how employment rates have changed for people with disabilities in the context of changing economic conditions. They found increasing disparities between people with and without disabilities across the country as well as across the rural-urban continuum.
Click the links below to download the fact sheet from the RTC:Rural and Rural Institute ScholarWorks collection: