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The Impact of COVID-19 on Disabled 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, secured funding from UKRI to study 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 took a longitudinal approach to explore disabled people's experiences of the epidemic in the short and medium term. It documented 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 conducted almost 70 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 worked closely with disabled people's organisations, social care organisations, parent support groups and voluntary bodies and interviewed key informants drawn from these organisations to understand broader experiences of their communities. Interviews were repeated twice over the project to track changes over time, to gain an understanding of the short and medium term impacts.  


To provide authoritative evidence as to how disabled people in England and Scotland experienced 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. Examining 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 completed by May 2021.



Pearson, C. , Watson, N. , Brunner, R., Cullingworth, J., Hameed, S., Scherer, N. and Shakespeare, T. (2022) Covid-19 and the crisis in social care: exploring the experiences of disabled people in the pandemic. Social Policy and Society, (doi: 10.1017/S1474746422000112) 

Shakespeare, T., Watson, N. , Brunner, R., Cullingworth, J., Hameed, S., Scherer, N., Pearson, C. and Reichenberger, V. (2022) Disabled people in Britain and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social Policy and Administration, 56(1), pp. 103-117. (doi: 10.1111/spol.12758)

Scherer, N., Wiseman, P., Watson, N., Brunner, R., Cullingworth, J., Hameed, S., Pearson, C. and Shakespeare, T. (2022). "Do they ever think about people like us?": The experiences of people with learning disabilities in England and Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic, Critical Social Policy (doi: 10.1177/02610183221109147)