Beginning Nov. 20, 2023, every U.S. household can again place an order to receive four more free COVID-19 rapid tests delivered to their home by visiting COVIDTests.gov. If you did not order tests this fall, you may place two orders for a total of eight tests. Additionally, before you discard any “expired” test kits you have, please check here to see if the expiration dates of your COVID-19 tests have been extended.

Individuals with Disabilities

One in four adults in the U.S. have a disability that affects major life activities; that is about 61 million people in the U.S. One in seven adults are affected by mobility; this is the most common disability. A mobility disability is defined as a disability that can affect movement ranging from fine motor movement, such as using the hands to grasp and move objects, to gross motor skills, such as walking. A mobility disability become more common with age, about two in five adults aged 65 and older are affected by this disability. There are various types of disabilities and they include but are not limited to: hearing, vision, speech, mobility, cognitive, intellectual, and mental impairment.1 As defined by Americans with Disability Act (ADA), a disabled person is someone who “has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a history of a physical or mental impairment, or is perceived by others to have such impairment.”2

 

Guidance from the ADA requires all governments to ensure that communications with people with disabilities are as easy to understand as for the rest of the population.

 

Effective Communication Tips for People with Disabilities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Access and Functional Needs Toolkit Integrating a Community Partner Network to Inform Risk Communication Strategies:1

  • Include American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for televised emergency announcements.
  • Provide accessible emergency notification systems and evacuation maps for all persons.
  • Ensure on-line emergency info is accessible to screen readers, used by people who are blind or who have low vision.
  • Use clear, simple language that is understood by people with intellectual or developmental disabilities and people with limited English proficiency.
  • Upgrade 911 systems to allow people with disabilities to use text-based communications.

 

Standard Disability Questions for Population Surveys:1

  • Six survey questions are considered the minimum standard to assess disability. These questions are also available on CDC’s Disability and Health Promotion website:
    • Are you deaf, or do you have serious difficulty hearing?
    • Are you blind, or do you have serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses?
    • Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, do you have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions? (5 years old or older)
    • Do you have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs? (5 years old or older)
    • Do you have difficulty dressing or bathing? (5 years old or older)
    • Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, do you have difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping? (15 years old or older)

Website Accessibility Tips:1

  • The U.S. Access Board provides technical assistance regarding Section 508 standards and how to make webpages accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Placing “alt tags” on graphics, using accessible online forms and tables, and posting documents created in accessible text-based formats are some key features.

The table below is FEMA’s Language Guidelines for Inclusive Emergency Preparedness, Response, Mitigation, and Recovery. It gives preferred language with referring to people with access and functional needs and disabilities.

Avoid

Preferred

Special communication, special needs communication

Accessible communication, effective communication

Vulnerable populations, special populations, at-risk populations

Disproportionately affected, access and functional needs

Special access, handicapped access

Equal access, universal access, effective communication access

Suffers from a disability

Has a disability

Mobility impaired, physically challenged, crippled, differently abled, bedridden, house-bound or shut-in, invalid

Has a mobility disability

The blind, sight impaired, vision impaired

Is blind, has low vision

Senile, demented

People with a cognitive disability, a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease

Emotionally disturbed, disturbed

Has a mental illness, mental health support, psychiatric disability; has a diagnosis of schizophrenia; uses behavioral health services

Mute

Unable to speak or uses synthetic speech

Normal person

People without a disability

Handicapped equipment, special devices

Assistive devices, assistive technology, durable medical equipment

Special needs planning, special plans, special needs annex

Whole community planning, inclusive planning, integrated planning

 

 

Noteworthy Practice from New York City Emergency Management from CDC’s Access and Functional Needs Toolkit Integrating a Community Partner Network to Inform Risk Communication Strategies:1

  • New York City Emergency Management offers tips for people with disabilities or access and functional needs on how to create a plan and be prepared for emergencies.
  • Take Steps to Prepare:
    • Provide your emergency contacts a spare key so they can get in your building.
    • Make copies of important documents, including health information.
    • If you have a pet, or emotional support or service animal, be alert and plan for his or her needs. During an emergency, pets, including emotional support and service animals, can become stressed.
    • Consider your dietary needs and always stock nonperishable food at home in case you must shelter in place during an emergency.
    • If you take medication, make a list of the medications you take, why you take them, and their dosages.
    • If you receive dialysis, chemotherapy, or other life-sustaining treatment, locate back-up locations so your service is not interrupted.
    • If you or anyone in your home depends on electrically powered life-sustaining medical equipment (such as a ventilator or cardiac device), received dialysis, or has limited mobility, you can take specific steps to prepare for an emergency.

 

Resources for Individuals with Disabilities

 

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021). Access and Functional Needs Toolkit: Integrating a Community Partner Network to Inform Risk Communication Strategies. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

 

2 Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (1991). Pub. L. No. 101-336, § 2, 104 Stat. 328.