Impact of COVID-19 on people with physical disabilities: A rapid review

Disabil Health J. 2021 Jan;14(1):101014. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2020.101014. Epub 2020 Nov 1.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic caused drastic changes in the lives of the general population. People with physical disabilities, who commonly encounter daily challenges such as barriers to community mobility, reduced access to healthcare services and higher risk of suffering from depression, may face additional challenges in the context of the pandemic.

Objective: This study aims to review the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and associated isolation and protective measures, among people with physical disabilities.

Methods: A rapid review of the published literature was conducted on August 10, 2020 through a search in six online databases to synthesize results from original studies regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with physical disabilities. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health was used to describe the population and the personal and environmental factors with a unified and standard health language.

Results: Eleven records were extracted from 1621 individual papers retrieved from the search strategy. Various impacts on daily functioning such as a decrease in access to healthcare have been noted during the pandemic. Changes in social and lifestyle habits, mood changes and decreased levels of physical activity were also noted.

Conclusions: Our results highlighted the lack of early research about the impacts of COVID-19 experienced by people with physical disabilities. Future studies should focus on specific consequences and needs of this vulnerable population to ensure their inclusion in public health recommendations and consideration by policy makers.

Keywords: COVID-19; Disabilities; Impact; Rapid review; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Disabled Persons* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Vulnerable Populations