Federal law requires that all public spaces, such as public health buildings, convention centers, fairgrounds, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and other businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to protect people from discrimination based on their disabilities.
Vaccination clinics must comply with the ADA. Any entity operating a vaccine clinic should have policies and procedures in place that include how it will serve people with disabilities, including steps to provide reasonable accommodations, to communicate effectively with people with disabilities, and a process for receiving and responding to ADA complaints.
Reasonable accommodation needs will vary from site to site, and for different individuals. Vaccine clinics should consider that people who are needing to access vaccinations will have a wide range of disabilities and many different access and accommodation needs. They may be deaf or hard of hearing. They may experience blindness or low vision. They may have an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment that impacts understanding of clinic process and procedures. They may use a wheelchair or other mobility devices. They may experience low stamina or fatigue, mental health conditions or behavioral support needs that may impact their ability to stand in line for long periods of time. They may require personal supports or assistance from a caregiver or companion throughout the process.
What is central to success is creating the opportunity for vaccine clinics to be physically and programmatically accessible (including scheduling and transportation considerations.) Clinic organizers should address communication and support needs, ensure volunteers and staff have information or training related to assisting people with disabilities, and develop a process for setting up vaccine appointments that meet the needs of people with disabilities and older adults. In many areas of the country, setting up vaccine appointments has become a significant barrier for people with disabilities and older adults, with inaccessible or confusing websites, complex registration processes, QR codes or other technologies that assume participants have access to a smart phone or broadband, and/or limited outreach to individuals who may not rely upon electronic forms of communication. Making registration and scheduling as straightforward as possible can improve access for everyone, not just people with disabilities and older adults.
Partnering with local disability and aging organizations is an effective approach that can ensure better access to vaccinations for these important-to-serve individuals. They can assist in understanding the needs of people with disabilities and older adults, including vaccine site design and implementation decisions.