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COVID-19 Testing Considerations for People with Disabilities

Case Study Last Reviewed: July 17, 2020

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.

The following is a list of key findings and considerations for jurisdictions and communities regarding ongoing COVID-19 pandemic operations across the country. These are best practices for consideration and do not constitute or should not be considered as guidance in any way.

This document contains references and links to non-federal resources and organizations. This information is meant solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be an endorsement of any non-federal entity by FEMA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or the U.S. government.

Areas for Improvement

  • People with disabilities may not be able to access COVID-19 testing sites which include, but are not limited to, community-based drive-through testing sites. Drive-through testing is especially inaccessible in urban areas, where fewer people have access to cars.
    • Mitigating Action: The Union County, New Jersey, Disability Core Advisory Group initiated a pilot “mobile” testing service which allows individuals with disabilities to be tested at home, when their disability prevents them from accessing fixed testing sites that are not universally accessible.
    • Mitigating Action: The Northwest Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Center developed a toolkit to help ensure accessibility at drive-through medical sites. The State of Colorado is considering people with disabilities before establishing a testing site by incorporating accessibility into their standard operating procedures (Source: FEMA Interview, 2020).

Potential Best Practices

  • Maryland Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) provides anyone in the State of Maryland access to a sign language interpreter, captioning, and assistive listening devices. The ODHH created a video to inform Marylanders who are deaf or hard of hearing of testing site locations within the state. ODHH also has a resource page in American Sign Language (ASL), which includes daily updates.
  • National Association of the Deaf (NAD) provides video services with an interpreter sharing updates on COVID-19. NAD also worked with an interpreter agency in San Francisco to provide video remote interpreting services to anyone accessing a drive-through testing site.
  • A free testing site in Chicago reserves the first hour of testing for older adults and individuals with disabilities.
  • In Colorado, a risk analysis was conducted to ensure testing sites are accessible and appropriately located.