Webinar: COVID Vaccines and People with Disabilities

audio version (opens in a new tab)




COVID continues to affect lives. On November 9, 2021, I attended a disability-focused webinar about coronavirus vaccine access for people with disabilities. It was presented by

Pacific ADA Center.

The topic was

“Has the COVID19 Vaccine Effort Worked for People with Disabilities?”.

Presentation materials can be accessed at the webinar link above. In this blog post, I will summarize what I learned.


The first presenter represented the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The second presenter represented

Arizona Center for Disability Law.

Presentation 1: CDC Perspective

The presenter said CDC is committed to health equity for individuals with disabilities. People with disabilities are more likely than those without a disability to experience barriers to healthcare or have chronic conditions. The presenter then discussed two surveys conducted by the CDC.

National Immunization Survey

The presenter said that according to the

CDC National Immunization Survey,

9.4% of respondents acknowledged having a disability. Respondents were more likely than other respondents to plan on getting a COVID vaccine and less likely to have gotten one dose already. The group was also more likely to consider the vaccine important. However, they were also more likely than those without disability to have challenges receiving the vaccine. This included difficulty getting to a vaccine site when it was open or making an appointment using the Internet.

Household Pulse Survey the

The presenter also discussed the

CDC Household Pulse Survey.

Just like the other survey referenced above, people with disability who responded were less likely to have gotten the vaccine. Similarly, there was a low response rate by people with disability.


Barriers to scheduling vaccine appointments need to be reduced and vaccine sites need to be accessible to everyone. For people unable to access information online, the CDC has a vaccine information hotline. The webinar then focused on the second presentation: vaccine access for individuals with disabilities from a legal perspective.


Presentation 2: A Legal Perspective

The second presenter agreed with the CDC representative about importance of vaccine access for people with disabilities.

Accessibility Challenges in Arizona

Accessibility Challenges

In Arizona, vaccine information was initially provided only through the Internet. More recently, the accommodation of a telephone line was eventually implemented. Additionally, state-sponsored vaccination sites did not provide sufficient communication for some disability types. Those sites were also not accessible for some people with disabilities because the sites were drive-through. Group vaccines can help alleviate transportation issues and availability of a person to answer phone calls when appointments were scheduled to ensure accommodations are provided. The presenter then discussed methods to ensure accessibility to people with disabilities at vaccine sites.


Vaccine Location Accessibility

Priority parking is necessary to accommodate people in wheelchairs who use vans. Background noise such as music can be challenging for people with sensory disabilities. To alleviate that challenge, a stress ball or separate room can be helpful. In-car vaccines can be helpful to some individuals. Signage needs to be in plain language. This means information needs to be written in a direct and clear way. Plain language is also important of vaccine web sites. Last and just as important, communication needs to be effective for people with disabilities. For example, vaccine sites need to know how to contact a sign-language interpreter to make communication possible with people who need that service. Additionally, live transcription tends to be more accessible than automated captioning. Questions from participants were then answered.


Questions and Answers

It was pointed out during the question-and-answer period that some people are not able to access the Internet. The CDC representative encouraged people to call the vaccine information line to get questions answered. Someone else asked what work is being done to make vaccine sites more accessible for people with disabilities. The presenter from Arizona emphasized the value of partnerships. Someone with visual impairment expressed a challenge getting vaccinated when traveling with a service dog. The Arizona presenter stated that ADA requirements apply during Covid. Education about disability rights was recommended. Bottom line: People with disabilities must legally be accommodated when they choose to receive a COVID vaccine, but barriers to access sometimes still exist.


Question for Readers

If you experienced challenges receiving the vaccine as a person with disability, what happened and how were challenges resolved? I will return with another article.


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