Social vulnerability and the impact of policy responses to COVID-19 on disabled people

Teodor Mladenov (Lead / Corresponding author), Ciara Siobhan Brennan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)
    43 Downloads (Pure)


    In this paper, we propose a conceptual framework for understanding the impact of the policy responses to COVID-19 on disabled people. These responses have overwhelmingly focused on individual vulnerability, which has been used as a justification for removing or restricting rights. This suggests the need to shift the attention towards the social determinants of disabled people’s vulnerability. We do this by bringing literature on social vulnerability in disaster risk management or ‘disaster studies’ in contact with key concepts in disability studies such as the social model of disability, independent living, intersectionality, and biopower. Empirically, we draw on the findings of the global COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor (, as well as on reports from academic journals, civil society publications, and internet blogs. We put the proposed conceptual framework to work by developing a critical analysis of COVID-19 policies in three interrelated areas – institutional treatment and confinement of disabled people, intersectional harms, and access to healthcare. Our conclusion links this analysis with strategies to address disabled people’s social vulnerability in post-pandemic reconstruction efforts. We make a case for policies that address the social, economic, and environmental conditions that disproportionately expose disabled people to natural disasters and hazards.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2049-2065
    Number of pages17
    JournalSociology of Health & Illness
    Issue number9
    Early online date23 Sept 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2021


    • COVID-19
    • biopower
    • deinstitutionalisation
    • disaster studies
    • independent living
    • intersectionality
    • social model of disability
    • social vulnerability

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Health Policy
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


    Dive into the research topics of 'Social vulnerability and the impact of policy responses to COVID-19 on disabled people'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this