The Biden administration on Thursday announced it was taking several steps to make masks and coronavirus testing more accessible to people with disabilities, following criticism from the disability community that top leadership of the the country has been slow to act to protect the country’s most vulnerable people.
Dr. Cameron Webb, senior policy adviser on equity on the White House Covid-19 Response Team, said that the administration has worked closely with disability advocates in recent months to create plan as a sign of commitment to do better by them. “We hear you, we see you,” he said.
Over the course of the pandemic, people with disabilities have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths, and many are unable to safely resume normal activities. Some children have compromised immune systems or other medical problems that put them at high risk for continuing distance learning even when their peers return to class.
People who are blind or have limited mobility often skip Covid-19 testing because they are unable to drive to the testing site or can’t do the tests at home. People with intellectual disabilities sometimes have difficulty understanding written instructions for Covid-19.
As part of a new Biden administration initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services will expand a disability information hotline to help people order tests, understand testing instructions, or find alternatives to home testing, officials said.
The administration also plans to improve at-home tests to make them more accessible and user-friendly, but did not provide specific details, although it did say that the National Institutes of Health would be involved. consult the communities that need those tests to help inform revisions and development of new tests and teaching methods.
At the same time, the administration has also signaled that it will prioritize buying at-home tests from manufacturers focused on these goals, officials said.
Other measures outlined by the White House include distributing masks to those unable to leave their homes so they can receive visits from caregivers, instructing schools on how to protect children with disabilities. high-risk schools and provide Covid-19 instruction in alternative formats such as Braille, American Sign Language, and simplified text that can be understood by people with intellectual disabilities.
Disability advocates praised the plan but expressed disappointment at its limited scope.
Mia Ives-Rublee, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, says that the guidance does not meaningfully address the concerns of people at high risk or with disabilities. reduced immunity, many of them living in isolation and fear as mask missions disappeared across the country. Many steps are the bare minimum and should have been done months ago, she said.
“I am glad they are working to accommodate our requests, but unfortunately some of them are just too little and too late,” she said.
Next steps, she said, disability organizations want the government to conduct more research on Long Covid, more workplace guidance for people who are immunocompromised or have had a long-term Covid illness, and step up provide treatments.
Tory Cross, an official with the healthcare advocacy group Be a Hero, said disability advocates would also like to see indoor mask-wearing duties maintained, at least until higher vaccination rates.
“The pandemic will not end until the world is immunized and until people with disabilities, chronic diseases and high risk are able to participate fully in society as those who are not,” she said. disabilities.
Kimberly Knackstedt, disability policy director for the Homeland Policy Council at the White House, says the White House plan is just the first step. She said the administration will continue to work on more initiatives and actions.
“Everyone’s needs are going to be a little different,” she said, adding, “We hope that this is a step in the right direction.. ”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/world/americas/white-house-releases-a-plan-to-help-people-with-special-vulnerabilities-to-covid-19.html The White House has launched a plan to help those especially vulnerable to Covid-19.