COVID-19 Risk for People With Intellectual Disabilities

Why Inclusive Health Matters More Than Ever

People with intellectual disabilities are considered a high-risk group for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 6.5 million people in the U.S. have intellectual disabilities.

Lack of Access to Healthcare Is the Greatest Threat
The most important risk for people with ID is not their underlying health conditions, but their lack of access to healthcare. In addition, more than 80% of healthcare providers are not trained to treat people with intellectual disabilities.

Despite severe need and higher health risks, people with intellectual disabilities lack equitable access to health services and die, on average, 16 years earlier than the general population.

People With Intellectual Disabilities Have Underlying Health Conditions
Higher rates of chronic health conditions put people with intellectual disabilities at a higher risk of serious illness and poorer outcomes from COVID-19. For example, people with Down syndrome can have compromised immune systems and smaller airways, which make them more susceptible to respiratory illnesses.

"People with intellectual disabilities should get prevention, COVID-19 testing, ventilators/respirators, and safe-at-home quarantine, just like people without disabilities. And they simply aren’t getting that access.”
Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Chief Health Officer for Special Olympics International

Adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities. Those who have existing medical conditions, including breathing problems, are also at increased risk for COVID-19.

Dental exam at Healthy Athletes screening during the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi.
Dental exam at Healthy Athletes screening during the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi.

Our Commitment To Keeping Athletes Safe During COVID-19
At Special Olympics, we are doing everything possible to prevent COVID-19. To protect our athletes, we have canceled all sport trainings, competitions, and events through at least June 30, 2020, worldwide.

We look forward to resuming our events and reuniting our athletes with their teams when it is safe to do so. Stay up to date by checking our calendar of events.

COVID-19 Resources for Healthcare Providers, Athletes, Parents, and Caregivers
We have armed our athletes with information on how to protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19. We have equipped athletes and families with at-home resources, including fitness videos and stress-reduction challenges to help them stay active. Here are some of our most popular COVID-19 resources to help our community stay informed and healthy.

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