DRT Expands Services in Response to COVID-19
If you have an issue or concern related to COVID-19, contact us at 1-800-342-1660 or at GetHelp@DisabilityRightsTN.org.
COVID-19 has affected our country in profound ways. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.5 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 130,000 have died from it. Of particular concern, people with disabilities have been disproportionately impacted, both in rates of infection and fatality.1 The scope of human tragedy is shocking, hard to comprehend, and with the confirmed COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, likely to become even worse.
Beyond the immediate human tragedy, there are also cultural and economic impacts of this pandemic, which disproportionately impact people with disabilities. Moving public school services to virtual classrooms sparked concerns about effective provision of special education services and the return to in-person classes raises trepidations about safety for those who are immune compromised.2 Skyrocketing rates of illness in group-homes and nursing facilities has sparked anxiety for the safety of people with disabilities living in supported living situations.3 And navigating isolation, already a challenge for people with disabilities, has moved to the forefront of everyone’s minds as a need for social distancing is weighed against mental health concerns.4 Furthermore, the United States is now experiencing record high unemployment rates and Tennessee is no exception. Despite a recent slow in submission of new unemployment claims, Tennessee’s unemployment rate still hovers at over 11%,5 This is particularly concerning for Tennesseans with disabilities who were already almost twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disabilities.6
In light of these unprecedented circumstances, Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) has been responding to the ever-changing needs of Tennesseans with disabilities. Just as the impact of COVID-19 is broad and varied, so have been the issues we’ve addressed this year. We advocated for effective communication in media broadcasts.7 We worked to educate fast-food chains about the needs of our clients facing barriers to ordering takeout food at drive-thrus.8 We’ve also created tips sheets for navigating hospitals’ new ‘no visitors’ policies.9 Additionally, we filed an Office of Civil Rights complaint about rationing care for people with disabilities during COVID-19, which resulted in positive changes to the Tennessee healthcare guidelines.10
Our work in response to issues rising from COVID-19 is far from complete, so DRT is expanding our services to meet current needs. As we navigate the pandemic and its rippling impact, it is clear that the health risks, isolation, reduced services, and more, have resulted in a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. Therefore, DRT continues our commitment to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities by ensuring that our supports and services are responsive to the needs of our community.
If you have an issue or concern related to COVID-19, please contact us at 1-800-342-1660 or at GetHelp@DisabilityRightsTN.org.
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