Issue 12 | April 2020

Disability Inclusion in Emergency Preparedness

COVID-19 is a reminder that emergency preparedness is crucial, and that we all have a role to play. Rest assured there are hard-working Manitobans in government and in the community helping to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

This issue of Accessibility News focuses on disability concerns during the pandemic. It provides information and resources designed to assist the nearly one in four Manitobans who have a disability. It also offers suggestions to help employees stay safe. Practical accessibility tips will help ensure all people continue to receive the goods and services they need. 

The Disabilities Issues Office is committed to making Manitoba accessible for everyone, especially during this time. We wish you all continued safety and good health. 

Navigating COVID-19 for People with Disabilities 

COVID-19 presents particular challenges for people with disabilities. For example, people who require home care or a support person may not be able to practice social distancing, as many services require close contact. With needed changes made to many of our services (like schools, public transit and childcare), some support persons may face additional challenges attending to clients. As a result, people with disabilities may be relying more than ever on trusted family and friends for help.  

While the practice of social isolation is being encouraged, for pockets of the disability community who are already socially isolated and live alone, prolonged isolation is detrimental to their health and well-being. For many Manitobans who have mental health concerns, it is especially important to stay connected now, and to know where to find additional resources.

Much media attention is focused on our older population because of their vulnerability to COVID-19. However, a large number of people with disabilities have similarly compromised immune systems. Pre-existing conditions can worsen the risk of contracting the virus, which may then require intensive medical aid. We must all do our part in providing support and preventing the spread of COVID-19, especially to people with disabilities.

Small actions can have a big impact. Looking out for one another is vital.

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


If you have additional community resources to share, please connect with us at


Community in Action

The E-Quality Communication Centre of Excellence (ECCOE) provides professional interpreter and intervener services, and oversees the Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf-Blind (RCMDB).

“We have provided a team of interpreters for media broadcasts, and they are available on a 24/7 emergency basis. The services we provide to Deaf-Blind Manitobans are especially important, as they may include running personal errands like grocery shopping, in addition to providing interveners for medical appointments.” – Bonnie Heath, Executive Director, ECCOE & RCMDB

Manitoba Government Leadership  

The Manitoba government is leading the way in considering accessibility in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, including:

In addition, in May 2019, the government enacted the Accessibility Standard for Employment, which calls on Manitoba employers to consider disability in their emergency procedures. Knowing in advance who is vulnerable can help determine the steps to take when an emergency occurs, including during a pandemic.

Workplace Emergency Response Information and Workplace Emergency Assistance provide guidance for including the accessibility requirements of employees with disability in your plans. For more information, please visit:



What Can Manitoba Businesses and Service Providers Do to Help?

We recognize that employers and employees are both 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:

  • 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 concerns related to COVID-19. Invite all employees to discuss any health or disability concerns. This will help you to understand employees’ needs and help keep everyone safe.

  • Communicate in a way that works for everyone
    • Use basic programs like HTML or Word to reach as many employees as possible.
    • Avoid imbedding messages in an image, which creates barriers for people with low vision or who are blind.
    • Add a short description to any images to assist in removing barriers affected by vision or understanding.
    • Keep documents and messages simple and easy to understand.
    • Use easy-to-read fonts, color contrast and white space.

  • Offer flexible work hours
    • 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.


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

  • Communicate in a way that works for everyone
    • See tips listed above.
    • Maintain your phone line – do not rely exclusively on computer technology to provide access to your products or information.

  •  Be flexible in the way you normally provide customer service:
    • Designate specific times that cater to people with disabilities (for example, set aside the first hour of operation each day for people with disabilities).
    • Provide home delivery or curbside pickup for people with disabilities.
    • Allow client authorization or payment by phone and the signature of a support worker or family member on delivery.
    • Consider flexibility in the way you normally do things.


For more tips, see the World Health Organization’s Disability Considerations During the COVID-19 Outbreak.



Our Work Continues:

 Announcing the Accessibility Compliance Framework 

The Accessibility for Manitobans Act and its standards (regulations) create requirements and deadlines for organizations. 

In March 2020, The Government of Manitoba released an accessibility compliance framework that describes the different steps in the compliance process.

The first priority is to educate toward compliance. To this end, we are working with numerous partners in the public, non-profit and private sectors to inform organizations about existing requirements, share practical tools and resources, and provide accessibility training.

The goal is to promote a cultural shift toward a more accessible Manitoba, so that everyone benefits.



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Disabilities Issues Office
630 - 240 Graham Avenue
Winnipeg MB R3C 0J7 
Phone: 204-945-7613
Toll free: 1-800-282-8069, ext. 7613 

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