Disability Advocacy and COVID-19
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a national cross-disability civil rights organization that works to advance the political and economic power of the more than 60 million individuals with disabilities in this country. The COVID-19 pandemic occurring in the United States should be of utmost concern to every lawmaker in the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and additional public health experts have stated that people with disabilities are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Beyond the specific conditions or diagnoses that may raise susceptibility to the virus itself, people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to the broader social, civil, and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Below are some resources and actions advocates can take to support people with disabilities’ needs and concerns so they are adequately addressed in COVID-19 efforts.
AAPD Community Calls:
On Friday, April 3 AAPD hosted a teleconference focused on the legal non-discrimination obligations for healthcare providers during the COVID-19 crisis. The teleconference addressed legal rights for people with disabilities in health care settings, current practices related to people with disabilities in medical triage, and recommendations to prevent medical rationing and disability discrimination. Featured presenters and experts were:
Ted Kennedy, Jr., Board Chair, American Association of People with Disabilities and Law Partner, Epstein Becker Green.
Kara Ayers, Ph.D., Associate Director, UCEDD, Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Samuel Bagenstos, Professor of Law, University of Michigan
Jennifer Mathis, Policy and Legal Director, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Silvia Yee, Senior Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
- AAPD Letter to Senate Majority and Minority Leaders: COVID-19 Response Package. – March 18, 2020.
- Letter to Congressional Leaders on COVID-19. (3/24/20). AAPD led over 270 organizations in a letter to congressional members on the COVID-19. Our organizations wrote to strongly encourage congress to include address the needs of people with disabilities in the third COVID relief package.
- How The Disability Community Can Respond to COVID-19. – March 13, 2020.
- COVID-19 Advocacy: If your organization is engaged in advocacy on protecting people with disabilities from COVID-19 or if you have been successful at securing action from your state government, we urge you to share details.
- Guidance to States Hospitals. – April 3, 2020.
- Large Coalition of National Disability and Health Advocacy Organizations Endorse Guidance On Preventing Disability Discrimination in COVID-19 Treatment Rationing. – April 3, 2020.
- Medications Access Template Letter – Medicaid. The CDC currently advises people at high risk of complications – a group including people with disabilities, seniors, and those with chronic illnesses – to obtain and keep on hand a supply of prescription medications in the event that staying at home for prolonged periods of time becomes necessary. In practice, this is is not possible for most, since most payers, including Medicaid, rarely cover refills until 3 to 7 days before a prescription is expected to run out. For those who take a controlled substance, state law often actively prohibits early fills regardless of payer policy. Governors and State Insurance Commissioners can change this. You can use these letters to write to your governor and urge them to take action to allow for early refills, longer refill periods, and mail-order pharmacies in Medicaid and for controlled substances.
- Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund resource Preventing Discrimination in the Treatment of COVID-19 Patients: The Illegality of Medical Rationing on the Basis of Disability https://dredf.org/the-
illegality-of-medical- rationing-on-the-basis-of- disability/
- “Don’t Deny Disabled People Ventilators” op-ed by National Council on Disability Chairman Neil Romano and Sam Bagenstos https://www.washingtonpost.
com/outlook/2020/04/06/ coronavirus-ventilators- disabled-people/
- Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights Bulletin on Civil Rights and COVID-19: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/
default/files/ocr-bulletin-3- 28-20.pdf?fbclid= IwAR351WokrC2uQLIPxDR0eiAizAQ8 Q-XwhBt_ 0asYiXi91XW4rnAKW8kxcog
- Guidance from Disability Legal Groups on non-discrimination in medical rationing related to the HHS Guidance: https://www.
centerforpublicrep.org/wp- content/uploads/2020/04/ Guidance-to-States-Hospitals_ FINAL.pdf
- “I will not apologize for my needs” op ed by Ari Ne’eman https://www.nytimes.com/2020/
03/23/opinion/coronavirus- ventilators-triage-disability. html
- “May Hospitals Withhold Ventilators from COVID-19 Patients with Pre-Existing Disabilities? Notes on the Law and Ethics of Disability-Based Medical Rationing” Yale Law Review Article from Sam Bagenstos. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/
- #NoBodyIsDisposable a “Know Your Rights” toolkit for people facing potential triage discrimination based on disability or weight during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. https://docs.google.com/
document/d/1td5Uq2R_ ivBLzPzamnq41T89nLD1UetHzS- 9tGr1fsk/edit
- Webpage with additional resources and federal and state advocacy (including OCR complaints and state advocacy coalition letters): https://www.