Approximately one in four individuals in the United States live with some form of disability. People living with disabilities face frequent barriers to activities of daily life, and disasters and emergencies often make things even more difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic has both created and spotlighted many barriers to health equity for people living with disabilities. To protect the rights and health of people with disabilities, preparedness planning efforts should be intentional and inclusive.
Through a CDC-funded cooperative agreement, ASTHO developed a program to support disability inclusion within state and territorial health agencies. ASTHO's Addressing the Needs of People with Disabilities in COVID-19 Preparedness Planning, Mitigation, and Recovery Efforts in U.S. State, Territorial, City, and County Health Jurisdictions, closes inclusivity gaps for people living with disabilities during emergency preparedness and response efforts.
Since January 2021, ASTHO embedded 18 disability and preparedness specialists in state and territorial health agencies to voice the needs of people living with disabilities in COVID-19 and broader emergency preparedness planning. Jurisdictions were selected based on disability prevalence, poverty rate, racial demographics, COVID-19 burden, and COVID-19 vaccination rates. Specialists work directly within jurisdictions’ health agency. What's more, the specialists advocate for people with disabilities, identify existing disability inclusion gaps in the health agency, develop improvement plans to address emerging needs, and participate in an ASTHO-hosted learning community for professional development and knowledge dissemination.
ASTHO’s Embedded series spotlights disability and preparedness specialist stories and insights.