Novel Coronavirus COVID-19

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COVID-19 (NOVEL CORONAVIRUS)

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This pandemic presents significant challenges to the one in four Manitobans who have a disability. Not only are they at increased risk of serious health complications, but many also have specific medical and support needs.

In a time when physical distancing acts as a defense against the virus, Manitobans with complex disabilities may require home care and other support services that require close contact. Illness and family demands placed on support workers can also result in the interruption of support services. Particularly, with the suspension of in-school learning, people with disabilities may rely now, more than ever before, on trusted family or friends for assistance. This may create new logistical challenges for everyone involved.

Manitobans who live alone and have difficulty getting around independently, may continue to experience a degree of social isolation from others, even as organizations begin to reopen their doors. For many Manitobans who have mental health concerns, it is especially important to stay connected now, and to know where to find additional resources.

We must all do our part in providing support and preventing the spread of COVID-19, including preventing the spread to people who are living with disabilities.

For more information on maintaining your health and COVID-19 testing, please visithttps://sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/ and www.manitoba.ca/covid19

Here are some additional resources for Manitobans with disabilities and their families:


Accessible goods and services during COVID-19

COVID-19 presents particular challenges for people with disabilities. For example, people with limited mobility or reach may have trouble practicing social distancing when getting the help they need. Service animals may also require retraining, in order to ensure their owners observe the two meter rule while receiving goods, consultation, or lining up at a check-out counter.

The Accessibility Standard for Customer Service calls on organizations to provide goods and services in ways that meet their customers’ needs.

    Consider the accessibility needs of your customers, clients, and members:

    • Communicate in a way that works for everyone:
      • Use basic programs like HTML or Word to reach as many employees as possible.
      • Avoid embedding messages in an image, which creates barriers for people with low vision or who are blind.
      • Add a short description to all images, to remove barriers for people with vision or comprehension difficulties.
      • Keep documents and messages simple and easy to understand.
      • Use easy-to-read fonts, color contrast and white space.
      • Maintain your phone line – do not rely exclusively on computer technology to provide access to your products or information.
      • Remember,individuals who are hard of hearing can no longer read lips when clerks are wearing masks.  Offer an alternative, such as a pen and paper, signs, texting, or moving to a quieter space.
    • Be flexible in the way you normally provide customer service:
      • Designate specific times that tailor to people with disabilities (example: set aside the first hour of operation each day for people with disabilities).
      • Provide home delivery or curbside pickup for people with disabilities.
      • Use computer programs or the telephone for virtual meetings. 
      • Allow client authorization or payment by phone and the signature of a support worker or family member on delivery.
      • If customers must line up, assign a staff member to supervise the cue. Offer a place-holder and easy-to-wipe seating for people who cannot stand for long periods. During summer months, consider how to provide shade and water.
      • Provide designated carts or baskets for individuals with reduced mobility during shopping and ensure these are properly sanitized.
      • Continue to provide service to people who require it, even in an environment of self-service, for instance to bag groceries or pump gas.
      • Small actions can have a big impact. Looking out for one another is vital.
        • The level of anxiety experienced during a pandemic varies greatly, as does a person’s vulnerability. Respectful and patient service is always the best practice. 

    Accessibility in the workplace during COVID-19

    Both employers and employees are vulnerable during a pandemic. However, businesses and service providers may be in a position to help Manitobans with disabilities during this difficult time.

    • Consider the accessibility needs of your employees during this emergency:
      • Ask whether they have any accessibility or disability concerns and consult with them on how to address these concerns
        • You may be unaware that an employee has asthma, a heart condition, a family member with a disability, or other challenges related to COVID-19. Invite all employees to discuss any health or disability concerns.
        • Maintain employee contact and offer mental health support
      • Communicate in a way that works for everyone
        • Use basic formats like HTML or Word to reach as many employees as possible.
        • Avoid embedding messages in an image, which creates barriers for people with low vision or who are blind.
        • Add a short description to all images to remove barriers for employees with vision or comprehension difficulties.
        • Keep documents and messages simple and easy to understand.
        • Use easy-to-read fonts, color contrast and white space.
        • Remember, individuals who are hard of hearing can no longer read lips when clerks are wearing masks. Offer an alternative, such as a pen and paper, text, or moving to a quieter space.
      • Where possible, be flexible
        • Many accommodations, like flexible hours of work, are low or no cost, and can make a world of difference.
        • Working from home is a great way to accommodate a range of disabilities. During COVID-19, many organizations are making adjustments that allow their employees to work from home.

      The Accessibility Standard for Employment under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (May 1, 2020) requires employers to consider the safety of their employees during an emergency. 

      To ensure the safety of employees with disabilities, effective May 1, 2020, all Manitoba employers must comply with these two requirements:

      1. Workplace Emergency Response Information: Create emergency response information to help employees with disabilities stay safe during emergencies.
      2. Workplace Emergency Assistance: Ask employees who require assistance during an emergency for permission to share information with individuals who agree to help.

      While typical emergency plans address barriers during an evacuation, during a pandemic employees may face other risks. 
      As organizations resume their operations during COVID-19, employers must consider whether employees require an accommodation based on their disability or health condition that increases their vulnerability to the virus.  Examples include a weak immune system, asthma, and other disabilities related to physical or mental health.
      Here are some resources to support accessible workplaces:

      SAFE Work Manitoba offers employers and employees information about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It also explains what constitutes dangerous work and the legal process to refuse work employees reasonably believe is a danger to their safety and health per The Workplace Safety and Health Act.  See also: