Frontline Initiative: DSPs Respond to COVID-19

Taking Care of Yourself


Bryan Dooley lives with cerebral palsy and is an advocate for people with disabilities. He is a blogger (, a board member of The Adaptables, Inc., a Center for Independent Living in Winston-Salem, and board chair of Disability Rights North Carolina. Bryan can be reached at

two caucasian men smiling outside in a park. One uses an electric wheelchair, is wearing a light blue tshirt and jeans. He has short dark hair and short mustache. The other has short dark graying hair,  has a nose ring, and is wearing a black tshirt with the words welcome back.

Bryan Dooley with his DSP Dave.

I received my third vaccination/booster shot in late September. But before that, I basically stayed in my house except for a few trips to the doctor or to the park to get fresh air. I would normally stay with my grandparents’ on weekends but that ceased for most of the summer. My mother was a nurse, so she and my stepfather were vaccinated early on. My direct support professional (DSP) maintained strict social distancing and followed the CDC’s mask and sanitizing suggestions while at home and providing support. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with having someone who isn’t vaccinated take care of me so closely. Being a person with a disability, it’s very hard for me to social distance myself, as I need close help with various daily activities. It’s important for everyone around me to take care of themselves.

My long-time night-time staff member was actually in the process of leaving due to health reasons, but still maintained his daytime teaching job. So, my full-time DSP’s hours increased to basically working every day for months on end. My mother was my natural support, and we made it work. It was tiring and led to a lot of burnout situations, but I think we are getting back to a new normal right now.

I now work as a community inclusion specialist at Solutions for Independence in Winston-Salem. I help people with disabilities stay in the community of their choice, along with other services, such as peer support, information and referral, advocacy, independent living skills training, and transitioning. I am only allowed to work 20 hours a week or I start to lose some of the services I need to keep my job through Vocational Rehabilitation. I work two full days in the office and a half day remotely during the work week. On weekends, I spend time at my grandparents’ house in Salisbury.

I have no choice but to protect myself by any means necessary, so the vaccine was a no-brainer for me.

I know many people hesitate to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for many different reasons. But I was not afraid at all. My lungs are already compromised due to a history of asthma resulting from pneumonia. I have no choice but to protect myself by any means necessary, so the vaccine was a no-brainer for me. As soon as my DSP found out that there were openings to get vaccinated at our local fairgrounds, we took advantage of it in the middle of January 2021. And then we both got the booster as soon as it was available. 

As a person who relies on others to assist in performing daily living activities, it’s very hard for me to socially distance. That means it’s paramount for the people who I rely on to protect themselves so, in turn, they can protect me. I recommend following all current guidelines in reference to vaccinating, masking, and social distancing, as suggested by the scientists and doctors of the CDC who have dedicated their lives to studying the current and previous viral trends.