Impact of COVID‑19 on women and girls with disabilities in Canada: A life course perspective

Brown, Hilary | $227,923

Ontario University of Toronto 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

One in five Canadians 15 years of age and older have a disability, and women (24%) are more likely to have a disability than men (20%). Women with disabilities experience significant social, health, and health care disparities, including disparities in sexual, reproductive, maternal, and child health (SRMCH). These disparities are the result of a long history of eugenic practices imposed on people with disabilities, and lingering negative societal attitudes toward disability and sexuality. The United Nations has documented the global impact of COVID‑19 on SRMCH due to diversion of resources away from SRMCH services. In Canada, impacts include restricted access to contraception and abortion; fewer available prenatal, breastfeeding, and parenting resources; high rates of maternal anxiety and depression; missed childhood routine vaccinations; suspension of in-person family access for children in the care of the child welfare system; and increased incidence of intimate partner violence. Such impacts have been felt more acutely in marginalized groups including racialized, low socioeconomic status, and rural/remote communities. However, one marginalized group for whom the impacts of COVID‑19 on SRMCH have received little attention is women with disabilities. In partnership with the Disabled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada, we propose a study to examine the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on SRMCH in women with disabilities across Canada using a national survey and interviews with women with disabilities in different stages across the life course. This research will result in real-time evidence to manage the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on SRMCH in women with disabilities and ultimately build a stronger, more inclusive SRMCH service system as we look toward COVID‑19 recovery.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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