People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and the direct support professionals (DSPs) who support them have faced unique risks to their health and quality of life (QoL) throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We sought to understand how COVID-19 has influenced QoL and overall well-being among these populations. We conducted a Rapid Qualitative Inquiry study with a sample of people with IDD and DSPs (n = 18) to gain deeper perspectives about QoL and well-being during the pandemic. Participants described that changes in QoL were typically negative and influenced primarily by reduced socialization and impacts on health and independence; however, participants also described the ways their interactions and mutual support for each other helped to preserve some aspects of QoL. Participants described how racism and publicized acts of racial violence contributed to their COVID-19 experiences, and offered descriptions of resources they benefited from, and those they lacked, during this time. Study findings have the potential to inform the development of policies and best practices that support people with IDD and DSPs during and following similar infectious disease emergencies.

Plain Language Summary

COVID-19 has harmed people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) It has also harmed the Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) that support them. We did a study to learn about how quality of life changed for people with IDD and DSPs during the pandemic. We did interviews with 18 people with IDD and DSPs. People who did interviews said their quality of life mostly got worse because of isolation and having fewer resources. Some people talked about ways their quality of life got better. We hope that this study helps researchers and providers support people with IDD and DSPs during pandemics.