WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 2, 2021)—Yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department announced a settlement agreement with Hy-Vee Inc.—a supermarket chain with more than 280 stores in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin—to ensure that people with disabilities can access information about COVID-19 vaccinations and book their vaccination appointments online. This resolution marks the department’s second agreement on the critical issue of vaccine access, following a November settlement with Rite Aid Corporation.
In the Justice Department’s news release, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said, “Ensuring that people with disabilities can schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments the same way that people without disabilities can is not only a public health necessity, but a key civil rights issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
At the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), we could not agree more. According to several studies that AFB has conducted on the impacts of COVID-19, people who are blind or have low vision have been affected by the pandemic in ways that have significantly exacerbated the existing inequalities that they face every day. Respondents overwhelmingly expressed significant concern about getting themselves or a family member to a test center. Drive-up only services discriminate against people who cannot drive, and people who are blind continue to face significant discrimination in accessing testing, vaccination, and telehealth sites. The Flatten Inaccessibility study, conducted by AFB in 2020, found that 21% of participants who had used telehealth to meet with their provider reported that the telehealth platform was not accessible.
Said Stephanie Enyart, AFB’s Chief Public Policy and Research Officer, “It is discouraging to see major corporations creating healthcare portals that are not accessible to people with disabilities, including those of us who use screen reader software or have a hard time using a mouse. That’s why federal enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act is so critical.”
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public accommodations like drugstores and grocery stores to provide individuals with disabilities with full and equal enjoyment of goods and services, such as vaccines and COVID testing.
“Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen how important it is that websites are accessible to all, so that the millions of people who are blind or have low vision can continue to work, shop, use telehealth, access lifesaving vaccine appointments—in short, do everything online that people without disabilities take for granted,” Enyart said.
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About the American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org