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Capitol Correspondence - 03.09.21

Senators Write to HHS and DOJ on Ensuring Accessibility of COVID-19 Vaccination Websites and Physical Sites

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Following reporting that vaccination websites are largely inaccessible, 13 Senators sent a letter to the U.S. Departments of Health & Human Services and Justice to ask them to ensure the accessibility of vaccination resources, websites and physical vaccination sites.

As written in the letter, led by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA):

“Since each state has the option to develop its own vaccine registration system and distribution process, we ask that you ensure that these processes meet or exceed the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d), as amended in 1998. In particular, we ask that you determine that registration websites, vaccination sites, and vaccine information have four types of access: physical, sensory, cognitive and technological.

We ask that you work with states to ensure that vaccination sites are physically accessible and easy to navigate for those with a physical disability who use wheelchairs, walkers or other mobility aids. To accommodate these needs, routes, parking, and restrooms at these sites should be accessible. The sites should also provide places to sit in a way that allows for safe social distancing for those who cannot stand for long periods of time. People with disabilities who require accommodations should also be able to be accompanied by a caregiver for the duration of their appointment.

Vaccination sites should have procedures in place to accommodate individuals who have difficulties waiting for long periods due to sensory disabilities. For example, some people with autism or who have experienced trauma are sensitive to lights, sounds, smells or touch, which makes waiting in lines in busy settings and wearing masks for long periods of time more difficult. Sensory access requires that vaccination sites proactively accommodate these needs with alternatives for those who need them. In addition, to ensure cognitive access, both registration websites and vaccination sites should include explanations that are easy to understand and available in multiple modalities such as plain language or visual storyboards. Additionally, communication while wearing masks should be augmented by other forms of communication, for example, to accommodate individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Finally, technological access requires ensuring that individuals with disabilities can easily navigate vaccine registration websites and any other digital components of the vaccination process.”