Ariel view of a crowd of people

The Impact of COVID-19 on Disabled People

The Centre for Disability Research together with colleagues from the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene has secured funding from the ESRC for a study looking at the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people and their families.  It is now well established that disabled people are particularly at risk from both the health and social  impacts of COVID-19.  For many, their support needs and their impairments make them more susceptible to the condition and increase the risk of mortality.

This qualitative study takes a longitudinal approach to explore disabled people's experiences of the epidemic in the short and medium term.  It will look to document the impact of social isolation and the interruption of support on their wellbeing, the barriers and facilitators of this process and lessons learned for policy and practice. We  are conducting 60 in-depth  interviews with a range of disabled people, including parents of disabled children, with different conditions, in different social and physical locations across England and Scotland.  In carrying out this work we are working closely with disabled people's organisations, social care organisations, parent support groups and voluntary bodies and are also interviewing key informants drawn from these organisations to understand broader experiences of their communities.  After six months, interviews will be repeated to track changes over time, so that we can understand short and medium term impacts. 


To provide authoritative evidence as to how disabled people in England and Scotland are experiencing the COVID-19 epidemic, and associated response measures, in the short and medium term, including what they consider might help them.


  1. Exploring how disabled people and their families are managing in their day to day lives, in particular the availability of health and social care, food and other domestic supplies, and the impact of COVID-19 and response measures (e.g. social distancing, hygiene, quarantine) is having on their routines.
  2. Examine the impact that the epidemic and response measures have on regular treatment schedules for people with chronic illness or rehabilitation needs, impact on functioning, and any ideas they have for addressing difficulties.
  3. Examining the impact that the epidemic and response measures have on availability and delivery of social care, and how disabled people and organisations think these can be addressed.
  4. Exploring the impact the epidemic and social distancing have on disabled people's wellbeing and mental health and the actions that they think can help to improve these.
  5. Identifying the barriers and facilitators that people believe could help or hinder their day to day lives.

The project is expected to be complete by May 2021.


Professor Nick Watson, University of Glasgow

  • Chair of Disability Studies (Institute of Health & Wellbeing Social Sciences)
  • Professor (Institute of Health & Wellbeing)
  • Associate (School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing)

Dr Nicola Burns, University of Glasgow

  • Lecturer in Disability Studies (Sociology)
  • Associate (Institute of Health & Wellbeing)

Dr Charlotte Pearson, University of Glasgow

  • Senior Lecturer (Urban Studies)
  • Lecturer (Institute of Health & Wellbeing)
  • Associate (School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing)

Dr Phillippa Wiseman, University of Glasgow

  • Lecturer in Research Methods (Sociology)

Tom Shakespeare, London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

  • Professor of Disability Research (Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, Department of Clinical Research) 

Shaffa Hameed, London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

  • Research Fellow (Department of Clinical Research, Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases)

Nathaniel Scherer, London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

  • Research Assistant (Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, Department of Clinical Research)

Research Associates

Richard Brunner, University of Glasgow

  • Research Associate (General Practice & Primary Care, Sociology)

Jane Cullingworth, University of Glasgow

  • Student