BACKGROUNDER: Administration announces new measures to meet the needs of persons with disabilities and seniors in response to COVID-19 and in recovery
The Administration recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on persons with disabilities and brought new members into the disability community.
Over the past year, the Authority has collaborated with and consulted with the disability community and taken several key steps to address the unique needs of persons with disabilities. Among other actions, the U.S. government issued key civil rights guidelines to protect people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic or any public health emergency; prioritized Long COVID services, supports and research in the context of disability; established a dedicated hotline to ensure people with disabilities can fairly use the administration’s home test distribution program; ensured that people with disabilities and other high-risk people have access to home testing; and invested US Rescue Plan (ARP) resources to build trust and access to the COVID-19 vaccine among people with disabilities.
Going forward, the Administration will take several key steps to continue our work to ensure that people with disabilities, regardless of where they live or the level of community transmission of the virus, have equitable access to COVID-19 testing, masks and other essential mitigation measures. strategies. The Administration remains committed to implementing these policies and developing additional policies in close collaboration with the disability community – keeping equity and accessibility central to our response to COVID-19 and beyond. . Administration:
- Equip schools with guidance and support to keep vulnerable students safe and learn in person. The Department of Education (ED) will work with school administrators and educators on strategies they can use to continue to provide safe, in-person instruction to all students in their classrooms. ED will engage the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure its guidelines are fully aligned with the latest public health guidance and that schools have clear recommendations and strategies to help protect safety and access to the rigorous learning that all children deserve. ED will also provide resources for parents who want additional support to understand how to navigate their child’s in-person learning experience through regional parent education and information centers. Parents can find their local center here and seek direct help and referrals from other organizations, as well as learn skills to participate effectively in their children’s upbringing and development. States and school districts should use the unprecedented resources provided by the ARP to implement these recommendations and ensure access to high-quality education for all students, including students with disabilities. Children learn best in person and are better able to undergo rigorous instruction and access services and supports tailored to their needs when they learn alongside their peers. The President has been clear from day one that we need students back in school for full-time in-person learning, and thanks to the unprecedented resources provided by ARP, schools have what they need. to stay open safely, keep students and staff safe, and address the impact of the pandemic on student learning and mental health. Some students may need additional protections to ensure they can stay safe in the classroom – including students who are immunocompromised, with complex medical conditions, or with other disabilities that may put them at greater risk. high of serious consequences of COVID-19. For nearly two years, educators across the country have provided services and supports to children with disabilities in ways never intended before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the administration is committed to ensuring that children with disabilities continue to receive the services and supports they need. so that they can reach their highest potential.
- Expand the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Disability Access and Information Line for Community Living to assist people with disabilities who have difficulty using or cannot use a self-test. The Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL), available at 1-888-677-1199, is launching a new initiative to support people with disabilities who need help using home tests distributed by the administration or support to find alternatives to home testing. test. For people who can use an at-home test, DIAL operators are available to help order free tests; understand instructions for test administration and test results; or provide alternate instructions for those who cannot access, read, or understand the manufacturer’s version. For those unable to use a home test, DIAL operators can help people order tests to collect a sample that can be mailed back for results. For people who cannot use a home test or alternative “swab and send” test, DIAL operators can help callers locate their state or local health department and/or aging and disability resources for additional assistance with other testing options that may be available in their community, including identifying potential home testing options or assistance with transportation or accompaniment to visit a community testing site.
- Launch new American Sign Language COVID-19 testing guidelines and review all existing COVID-19 guidelines to confirm accessibility for all persons with disabilities. The CDC recently released the “How to Interpret Positive Self-Test Results” guide in American Sign Language (ASL), a first step in ensuring that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can access key information on how to protect themselves and protect their communities. The CDC is also collaborating with the CDC Foundation, the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation at Georgia Tech, and their partners at HHS to pursue key enhancements to all COVID-19 guidelines available on the CDC website that are not accessible elsewhere: information in Braille, ASL translation, plain text and other alternative formats.
- Execute a new effort to develop at-home COVID-19 tests accessible to everyone. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) RADx program has launched a new effort to seek short- and long-term solutions to improve the accessibility of home testing. RADx will consult and work with national organizations that represent communities in need of accessible testing, and test manufacturers to inform the modification or development of more accessible home testing, including device design, packaging, modes instruction and challenges. Although at-home COVID-19 tests were only invented last year, the administration’s investment in the technology has quickly boosted manufacturing to millions a day. This effort aims to ensure that all individuals have a home testing option that can be used and interpreted without assistance, and will pave the way for accessible testing in the weeks and months to come.
- Urge all home testing manufacturers to prioritize the accessibility of home testing. The administration issued a formal Request for Information (RFI) to ensure the preservation and expansion of current domestic manufacturing capabilities for rapid home testing and point-of-care testing. In particular, the RFI asks manufacturers to favor the accessibility of home tests for blind or visually impaired people; people with physical, cognitive or other disabilities; and people who need non-English language or literacy support. The administration will use information gathered in March 2022 to inform near-term investments — to ensure accessible home testing is available for federal government purchase.
- Ask for accessible instructions from manufacturers who have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA contacted all test developers who received an EUA asking them to provide accessible, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant instructions, including alt text for all images as well as html versions. The FDA will use all available authority to make these instructions accessible as soon as possible, while working with RADx to identify other wraparound services that can be provided immediately to make existing home testing more accessible.
- Distribute masks to people with disabilities through community organizations and jurisdictions. HHS will support health centers and networks for the elderly and disabled as they work together in efforts to distribute N95 masks to people with disabilities who cannot leave their homes. As the President announced in January 2022, the administration is making 400 million N95 masks from the National Strategic Stockpile freely available to all individuals in the United States. HHS is sending tens of millions of free, high-quality masks to community health centers and rural health clinics — organizations that play a vital role in serving communities across the country, including people with disabilities.
- Call on states to directly distribute high-quality masks through community organizations serving people with disabilities. Over the past year, the administration has also sent millions of high-quality masks to states and territories across the country. We encourage all jurisdictions to work in partnership with community organizations to expand access for those hardest hit and most at risk, including people with disabilities who may not be able to leave their homes.