Disability and COVID-19: who counts depends on who is counted

Elsevier, The Lancet Public Health; Volume 5, Issue 8, August 2020, Page e423
Nicholas S Reed, Lisa M Meeks, Bonnielin K Swenor

Recent publications have highlighted how people with disabilities could be at increased risk from COVID-19, and have made calls for a disability-inclusive pandemic response.1, 2 However, little attention has been given to a crucial underlying factor that precludes movement towards addressing inequities: the scarcity of disability data. Without data, the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities remains unknown.

Early calls were made to publish COVID-19 data by other inequity strata including age, race, and sex.3 A key difference from disability is that these variables are more likely to be collected and are compulsory in some cases.4 Although progress still needs to be made in further improving data collection and addressing disparities by age, sex, and racial groups, the existence of collected data allows researchers and officials to provide accurate evidence of disparities, and form the basis for a data-driven pandemic response.