We will not settle for being the ‘left behind of the left behind’

People First of Canada, Editorial, April 15, 2019

People First of Canada members have always said that living in the world of intellectual disability is not easy. People with disabilities are often called the most vulnerable of our society. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in Canada, we have definitely been feeling that – left behind.

The smallest of things can have a big ripple effect on us.

Part of this is because the lives of people with intellectual disabilities can be complicated. Many of us get home care or personal care services. Many of us have a personal support worker. We depend on these services.

We also often live in different spaces and situations than people without intellectual disabilities do. Some of us live in ordinary homes and apartments. Some of us live with our family. But many of us live… in group homes, or personal care homes or residential homes like Participation House in Markham, Ontario.

Participation House is a facility for adults with developmental and physical disabilities. There are 42 people living there and about 80 staff work there. Late last week, all but 4 of the staff walked away from their jobs when they were told about an outbreak at the facility. There were 10 residents and 2 staff with COVID-19. By the end of the weekend, the numbers had risen and 12 residents and 6 staff that tested positive for the virus. By Tuesday evening, 37 of the 42 residents had tested positive and 4 were in hospital with one in critical condition. There are now 12 staff members who have tested positive.

The alarm bell for senior’s homes began ringing across the country in mid-March. It is only now, four weeks later, that it is finally being rung for the places where many people with intellectual disabilities live. Why didn’t we start protecting people with intellectual disabilities sooner?

To all the governments of Canada, if you believe we are among the most vulnerable in society then you MUST have a coordinated effort to protect us. We can’t do it ourselves. And we will not settle for being the ‘left behind of the left behind’ this time.

People First of Canada

See full editorial: Living with care, support, and an intellectual disability during COVID-19