#AdvocacyMatters: DRO Weekly COVID-19 Round-Up
April 3, 2020 / COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis presents challenges that most of us have never experienced. For Ohioans with disabilities, the outbreak, and measures implemented to slow it, are even more difficult. Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) is seeing first-hand how this crisis is further isolating our clients. And while we are proud of Ohio's leadership during this public health crisis, DRO is vigilant in its efforts to mitigate the detrimental impact many of these measures are having on people with disabilities. Our communities face unique risks from the COVID-19 outbreak. As we navigate this exceedingly challenging time together, #AdvocacyMatters more than ever.
Today, DRO partnered with a number of state advocacy organizations in reaching out to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health. We are urging them to "lead the way" as Ohio develops rationing protocols to deal with the allocation of scarce medical resources. We are alarmed to see that other states have established rationing protocols that clearly discriminate against individuals with disabilities. These discriminations are both implicit and explicit and devalue their lives by failing to recognize the humanity and dignity of people with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities should not have to carry the additional burden that their disabilities will be held against them when it comes to determining what level of care they will receive during this crisis. We cannot and will not stand for this. DRO has offered to work with the state to effectively implement policies that protect its most vulnerable citizens from unfair and illegal rationing protocols. You can read DRO's letter here.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to escalate, DRO has requested that the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and the Ohio Department of Medicaid addresses three specific issues, maintaining and expanding services and supports, protecting rights and safety and providing effective communication to individuals receiving services. Of major concern, is disruptions to the services and supports people with disabilities rely upon to meet their needs, particularly if the system experiences a significant reduction in workforce capacity as the crisis continues. DRO has urged the agency directors to plan for the worst-case scenario in order to leverage available resources to meet the needs of people throughout the state, while not sacrificing transparency, accountability, and non-discrimination mandates. Please read our correspondence with the Directors of these agencies here.
Appeal to Retailors
DRO has partnered with The Ohio Association of Centers for Independent Living, thanking essential businesses for remaining open during this unprecedented pandemic while raising concerns that have arisen in regard to individuals with disabilities having trouble accessing businesses and services at this time. To address our concerns, we have requested two solutions: 1) as an in-store accommodation, create an hour of shopping for individuals who are higher-risk as identified under the CDC guidelines and, 2) as an online delivery services accommodation, provide a checkbox option for higher-risk individuals to self-identify at the checkout to be prioritized for earlier delivery times. You can read the full letter here.
Like all Ohioans, DRO is grateful for the work the state is doing to respond to this public health emergency. It is our job, our duty, to continue to empower the people who count on us for essential advocacy and provide the support they need to endure this terribly difficult time. We will work tirelessly to ensure this mission continues to be met.