Intersection of Disability and COVID-19

Medical Care and Access to Support 

Early in the pandemic, conversations began about hospitals trying to conserve scarce equipment such as ventilators and emergency beds by prioritizing who would receive the equipment. Reports were shared about policies that would deny potentially life-saving equipment to individuals with disabilities. Patients being treated for COVID who needed someone present to assist with their treatment (ie: a caregiver to help with decision-making, or someone to help with communication)  were being denied access to those they relied on, because hospitals were not allowing any visitors to prevent the spread of COVID- and there were no exceptions for any visitors even as a disability accommodation. You can read about one of the patients impacted by these rules, Sarah McSweeney, here:

SB1606 was signed in July (SB1606), and it requires hospitals to let a guardian/advocate be in the hospital with patients who need their assistance. It also requires notification to the state protection and advocacy organization if there is a plan to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining measures from a patient with an intellectual or developmental disability. It further makes it an unlawful practice to deny medical treatment or restrict/limit allocation of medical resources to protected class or based on patient’s race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability.

Masks and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Masks have become a common topic of conversation in America. Accommodations are required for individuals with disabilities who cannot wear a mask because of their disability. However, the accommodation may not be what the individual is requesting; for example, they may not be allowed to enter a store without a mask, instead, the store may offer free delivery or curbside pickup. Nationwide, lawsuits over mandatory mask policies have been receiving media attention ( ; ).

Read more about the rights of individuals with disabilities on Disability Rights Oregon’s COVID-19 Know Your Rights page, which covers the right to medical care, access to supports while receiving care, mask-wearing and the ADA, and more: COVID-19 Know Your Rights