Nothing without us: Towards inclusive, equitable COVID‑19 policy responses for youth with disabilities and their families

Zwicker, Jennifer D | $199,650

Alberta The University of Calgary 2020 CIHR Operating Grant


Persons with disabilities and their caregivers are an at-risk population in the COVID‑19 pandemic who’s mental health has been disproportionately impacted by the policy measures adopted in response. Given the increased risk for this vulnerable population during the pandemic and existing higher rates of mental health concerns, policy and services that are not designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities and their families in emergency pandemic preparedness efforts can add to or create mental health concerns. Addressing these risks in the spirit of « Nothing Without Us » and the Accessible Canada Act, and in recognition of Canada’s domestic and international human rights obligations is critical. Unfortunately, there is inadequate data collection and insufficient emergency preparedness planning and response for people with disabilities. The goal of this project is to identify policy responses established during the COVID‑19 outbreak in Canada and internationally that promote resilience and address mental health challenges and needs of youth with disabilities and their families. To achieve this we will: 1) monitor and compare how COVID‑19 policy measures adopted across provinces in Canada align with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction; and the WHO’s disability-specific recommendations issued during the COVID19 outbreak; 2) analyze experiences with COVID‑19 policies through interviews with youth with disability and their caregivers; 3) integrate findings to co-design and mobilize policy recommendations with partners. Findings are critical to provide evidence to inform decision- making and planning that mitigate potential mental health harms and promote equity in COVID‑19 policymaking. Findings will generate knowledge to enhance disability inclusion in future public health emergencies being implemented for youth with disability and their caregivers.

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