Disabilities can develop during a person’s lifetime (for example, loss of a limb or contraction of a incurable disease), or develop before birth (such as with cognitive or learning disabilities). Regardless, during a disaster or humanitarian crises, special attention to the needs of disabled persons is heightened because accessibility and other relied-on resources may be significantly reduced. For example, during a pandemic like COVID-19, transitioning health care to virtual, telehealth platforms may be difficult for those with vision, hearing, speech, or intellectual disabilities to use effectively. In a humanitarian setting, disability may also be a cause for additional human rights abuses, particularly with refugees, women, and children. Research in these areas, therefore, is much needed. Specific ethical considerations typically include: understanding vulnerabilities associated with being disabled rather than as a general vulnerability; issues related to informed consent; caring for individuals who incur disability during an emergency or during health-related research study; and inclusion of the disabled in humanitarian and disaster research as a matter of social justice and equity. Given the general lack of literature on research ethics and disability during disasters, guidance in this area is an important research priority.

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