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Local jurisdictions and nonprofit organizations have compiled resources and offered video conferencing services for students and employees with disabilities who are learning or working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accessibility of COVID-19 Information-Sharing and Public Communications for People with Disabilities
People with disabilities must have equal access to COVID-19 information as those without disabilities. State and local jurisdictions, as well as healthcare organizations, can enhance communication access through visual symptom check cards and accessible videos. These videos may include American Sign Language (ASL)/Puerto Rican Sign Language (PRSL), captioning, voice-over, or audio description. Televised press conferences have also included qualified sign language interpreters.
During natural disasters that coincide with a pandemic, shelter providers can coordinate with disability service organizations to ensure the accessibility of congregate and non-congregate shelters.
Amid the increase in counseling need during the COVID-19 pandemic, crisis counseling providers can train staff on disability-related topics, such as etiquette and accessible communication, to enhance the reach of their services. Crisis counseling services can include auxiliary aids and services for individuals who may have access and functional needs.
To ensure the accessibility of healthcare services during the COVID-19 pandemic, medical facilities should consider allowing caregivers to accompany patients with disabilities to medical visits, while implementing the necessary precautions for social distancing and mask-wearing. Medical centers have also created visual guides to explain COVID-19 preventive behaviors to individuals with autism.
COVID-19 Considerations for Nursing Home, Assisted Living, and Group Home Residents with Disabilities
To offer emotional and social support for nursing home and assisted living residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, facilities can set up video conference calls between residents and loved ones. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidance documents on ensuring the safety of patients, residents, and staff amid shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and life-sustaining medical equipment.
Jurisdictions can increase the accessibility of COVID-19 testing by offering mobile testing services that allow individuals with disabilities to be tested at home. COVID-19 testing sites can also provide video interpreting services or reserve time slots for populations with access and functional needs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, disability stakeholder organizations and local jurisdictions created phone lines for individuals with disabilities to request grocery or general assistance. Crowdsourced mobile applications can assist individuals with disabilities while they are grocery shopping and cannot ask for in-person assistance due to social distancing guidelines.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides funding for eligible states and non-profit entities to incorporate auxiliary aids and services in COVID-19 related response activities to accommodate individuals with access and functional needs.
Local jurisdictions held virtual town halls during the COVID-19 pandemic to gather community concerns that would inform response efforts.