After nearly a year of advocating for the prioritization of the disability community in federal COVID-19 relief, people across the country are rejoicing to see President Joe Biden address the virus’s severe impact on individuals with disabilities.
Within the last couple of weeks, Biden has signed new executive orders in favor of increasing access to vaccines, mandating masks in specified public settings, and more.
The new President also announced that changes are to come that will better assist the disability community. This plan includes:
- More guidance from the CDC, greater support for individuals with disabilities who currently receive intermediate care as well as those receiving at-home and community-based services
- New data collected by the federal government regarding how the virus specifically affects the disability community
- “Detailed technical guidance” required from the U.S. Department of Education and the CDC on how to safely reopen schools while protecting immunocompromised students and staff and those with disabilities
- Developing new systems to provide vaccines to high-risk individuals, including institutions for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities
The tactics of how this plan will be rolled are not yet detailed, and Biden has verbally acknowledged that the specifics will take time.
“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it’s going to take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear: We will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic,” Biden said. “Help is on the way.”
Disability advocates across the country are expressing their hope for such change, but not without remaining cautious.
“While it is a good sign to see a federal plan explicitly mention individuals with disabilities, this is just the beginning of a long road ahead,” says Special Needs Companies Founder, Annette Hines. “Government ‘guidance,’ while important, will not be enough to save the lives of disabled individuals who are dying every day because they have not been prioritized in the vaccine rollout plan thus far. We need action from this plan, and we need it quickly.”
Are you looking for community support during COVID-19? Check out our “Circle of Care” Facebook group where hundreds of individuals with disabilities and their, parents, caregivers, advocates, teachers, and more share helpful resources and words of encouragement.