Webinar: Disability Lessons from Covid-19

audio version (opens in a new tab)




I have shared in the past information which I learned from webinars about Covid, with a focus on people with disabilities. This is another article with a similar purpose. On July 1, 2021, I attended a webinar from the

Pacific ADA Center


ADA National Network Learning Session: Achieving Equity in a Time of Scarcity: Lessons from the COVID-19 Vaccine Experience”.

In this blog post, I will summarize what I learned.


Presentation 1: Disability Data

The first presenter represented

Kaiser Family Foundation.

The amount of data about disability impact due to Covid-19 varies by state. For example, the presenter indicated the number of people with disabilities receiving long-term care not in nursing homes is unclear. Additionally, it can be difficult for some people with disabilities to social-distance. In some cases, in-home services were suspended as a result of the pandemic. State plans were then discussed.


State COVID Plans

A federal task force recommended in December 2020 that people in nursing homes be prioritized in group 1a. Whether to also prioritize people with disabilities receiving in-home services or not was a decision for states the decide. In California, clinicians were given the freedom to decide if people with disabilities are at greater health risk. KFF found that at least half of states prioritized people with disabilities in group 1b. The presenter then discussed Medicaid.



Under Medicaid, home and community-based services have been optional historically. In 2013, the amount of Medicaid on HCBS surpassed the amount for nursing home care. People tend to prefer HCBS services and it is cheaper. Medicaid Balancing Initiative was a Medicaid allowance under the Affordable Care Act. The purpose is to encourage federal funding for HCBS services. Effectiveness of that demonstration program varied by state. IN some cases, people with higher income can qualify for Medicaid if they use a specific type of trust. Focus then moved to the second presentation.


Presentation 2: California’s Experience

The second presenter is currently Executive Director of

Disability rights California (DRC).

IN January 2021, the state of California decided not to use a tiered system. Instead, people over 65 would be eligible, People under 65 would be eligible later. Then the state chose to prioritize people with disabilities under the age of 65 as of March 15, 2021. DRC recommended that all people with intellectual/developmental disabilities be prioritized and allowed people to self-identify. The state agreed and changes went into effect starting on the date mentioned above. One lesson learned by California is the need for more data about affected people with disabilities. Second, the presenter said that the public health system for his state lacked knowledge about the disability population and vaccine access accommodations for people with disabilities. Consequently, media reporting was helpful in bringing attention to the disability vaccine prioritization issue in California. The webinar then wrapped up with a question-and-answer period.


Question and Answer Session

The two presenters agreed, in response to a question, that there has not been enough national disability data collected. A challenge in data collection is not asking too many questions. In California, a COVID challenge was that web sites were not accessible to some people with disabilities. Examples: screen reader problems including time-outs. The DRC representative said the web site accessibility issues was an opportunity to educate California’s public health department. Due to the pandemic, some restaurants in California providing outdoor service created physical barriers for people with mobility disabilities. Bottom line: education about disability can be helpful.


Question for Readers

Has the pandemic taught you anything as a person with a disability, and if so, what? I will return with another article.


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