Group calls for more safety for Canadians with intellectual disabilities

There’s been a lot of emphasis on protecting vulnerable seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) wants to see the same safety measures extended to Canadians with intellectual disabilities, and the people who work with them. 

Krista Carr, CACL’s executive vice president, said the living situations and specific needs for people with intellectual disabilities vary widely, but the response she’d like to see can be put in simple terms.

“What we would be asking for is equity and equality for people with disabilities, and to be shown that their lives are worth as much as any other life that we’re trying to save right now, or protect,” she said. 

Carr said the vigilance around protecting Canadian seniors, particularly in long-term care, is excellent. But, for adults who have intellectual disabilities and live in similar settings, it can be a different case. Carr said support staff are sometimes short on personal protective equipment and don’t always have the training related to the pandemic that they require. In some cases, staff are receiving recommendations rather than guidelines, she said.

“Whereas in long term care, you must do these things, you must have the equipment, you must have training,” Carr said. “In [our] settings we’re often getting, you know, ‘well, our best advice is–‘, or ‘we would recommend that you do these things.'”

Carr said there are many people with intellectual disabilities who live in their own homes, with family members, or other types of group homes, and many of them require support workers. 

Carr has been appointed to a federal COVID-19 disability advisory group. She’s hoping to see a nationally-coordinated approach across provinces and territories to ensure safety for people and their support workers. 

‘More pay, more people — everything.’

Saskatoon’s Helen Thomas has an adult son who has intellectual disabilities. She said she’s glad to see the staff where he lives are now required to only work at that residence. But she doesn’t want to see the issue dropped once the pandemic has relaxed. 

“A lot of work needs to be done in the area of staff for supportive living,” she said. “More pay, more people — everything.” 

Thomas said COVID-19 has shone some light on areas for improvement in seniors’ homes, and it’s good to see that people are being made aware of it.

She said she’d like to see similar outcomes for other vulnerable groups, like people with intellectual disabilities.

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