Respiratory Viruses and People with Disabilities | Respiratory Illnesses

A person’s susceptibility to severe respiratory viral infections may be increased by certain impairments. For instance, certain individuals with disabilities are more likely to live in communal environments, have underlying medical disorders, or encounter other conditions and variables related to social determinants of health.

Why prevention is important

Studies have shown that:

People with certain disabilities have a higher risk of getting respiratory virus-related complications, for example:

People with intellectual disabilities were 3.5 times more likely to die from the COVID-19 pandemic than the general population, but they were equally likely to get infected during the first two waves of the epidemic. Find out more.
It is estimated that hospitalization from respiratory infections is five to seven times more common in children with neurologic and neurodevelopmental abnormalities than in other children. Find out more.

Making a plan


In addition to helping people with disabilities locate nearby immunization clinics and arrange for accessible transportation, the Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) can offer additional support for obtaining COVID-19 immunizations, such as scheduling immunization appointments.


Keep in mind that respirators that fit better—like N95 or KN95 respirators—protect you from breathing in germs more effectively than other kinds of masks—like cotton masks or surgical/disposable masks.

It could be challenging for certain disabled people to wear a mask. Difficulties could stem from sensitivity to materials on the face, inability to comprehend the importance of wearing a mask for safety, or trouble maintaining the mask in place. People with disabilities or their caregivers can take into account a person’s capacity to put on a mask appropriately (i.e., the right size and fit), to refrain from touching their face or the mask frequently, and to take off the mask on their own.

Clear masks or masks with clear panels are an option for those who are hard of hearing or deaf, or for those who spend time with someone who is.

Steps for cleaner air

Keep in mind that taking extra precautions for cleaner air might be especially beneficial if you are unable to wear a mask or keep your distance from other people—for instance, if you require direct support or personal assistance.


COVID-19 antivirals are advised for specific individuals, such as those with a variety of disabilities, who are at a high risk of developing COVID-19-related problems.

People who live in communal environments or have a variety of underlying medical disorders are among the groups of people for whom flu antivirals are advised if they are at high risk of developing consequences from the virus.
Consult a healthcare professional to find out more about if treatment is appropriate for you.


Tests are being sent to the aging and disability networks in collaboration with the Administration for Community Living and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response. COVID-19 testing might be provided at no cost to you by your neighborhood Center on Independent Living.

People with disabilities can buy free at-home test kits and get connected to local COVID-19 testing options with the assistance of the Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL).

Working with support providers

The following strategies can be used by people with disabilities who have direct assistance providers to further safeguard themselves against respiratory viruses:
Find out from the direct support providers whether they have any symptoms or any other indication that they could be suffering from a respiratory virus.

Tell direct service providers to:

When they come into your house, wash their hands both before and after handling you (dressing, showering, transferring, using the restroom, feeding), handling tissues, or doing laundry or changing sheets.
In order to lower the quantity of viruses indoors, open windows, use air filters, and take other measures for cleaner air.
Put on a mask that fits snugly over your mouth and nose.


Related Articles