Implications of COVID-19 Regulations for People With Visual and Intellectual Disabilities: Lessons to Learn From Visiting Restrictions

Aline K. Honingh, Angelique Koelewijn, Bert Veneberg, Francis ter Horst, Paula S. Sterkenburg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments of many countries announced regulations to prevent the virus from spreading. For people with a disability living in a sheltered care facility in the Netherlands, this meant that they were not able to receive any visitors for almost 3 months. Aim: This study examines how people with an intellectual and visual disability and their families experienced the period in which it was mandated not to have any physical contact. The aim is to examine the experiences of this target group and gain insight in the way measures were taken in order to be able to advise care organizations about adequate care with respect to possible restrictive measures in the future. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with two groups of people: (1) fourteen people with an intellectual and visual disability, living in sheltered care facilities and (2) twelve people being relatives of residents of these same sheltered care facilities. In the interviews, the participants were questioned about their experiences with respect to the adjusted visiting regulations and with respect to the relation with their family during this period. A thematic analysis was performed first separately and then combined. Results and Discussion: A number of themes resulted from the analysis that were related to (1) the instructed regulations of the sheltered care facilities and the government; (2) the relation with family and friends; and (3) the consequences of COVID-19 and the regulations. Both relatives and residents were understanding of the difficult situation, but also expressed criticism about the chosen regulations, the communication thereof, and the practical implementation. Both groups have experienced the interruption of close contact as emotional and difficult. However, also positive consequences of the restrictions due to COVID-19 were mentioned. The results provide a list of recommendations for sheltered care facilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-71
JournalJournal of policy and practice in intellectual disabilities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank all participants (residents and relatives) for their contribution to this research. Furthermore, the authors thank Lars Lommers, Sabine van Wanrooij and two independent researchers from Altuïtion for their contribution to the collection and analysis of the data, and thank Joyce Schroor for administrative support. Finally, the authors thank the sheltered care organization for opening their doors for this study. This study was funded by ZonMw (reference number: 60‐6410098101) and Bartiméus Fund (reference number: P00238).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities published by International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Wiley Periodicals, LLC.


  • COVID-19
  • experiences
  • intellectual disability
  • policy
  • visiting restrictions
  • visual impairment


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