For many people, the pandemic seems over. They have been vaccinated and are going back to their regular lives. For people with disabilities, on the other hand, not much has changed. Especially those who belong to the “vulnerable population,” those at high risk of developing severe symptoms if infected with the virus, are facing increasing threats with the lifting of all COVID restrictions, and therefore access to vaccinations becomes even more important. DIAL, the Disability Information and Access Line, supports people with disabilities with all their COVID-related needs.
People with disabilities have been severely impacted by the pandemic from day one: from a lack of access to protective face masks to triage policies to being forgotten during the role-out of vaccines, they have faced many barriers since the beginning of 2020. Depending on the disability and/or chronic illness, they died at a higher rate. For example, people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are at greater risk of severe complications of the virus. However, in total, five percent of the population is considered “high risk” in terms of COVID. All these people might have conditions such as asthma, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many more.
For these 395 million “vulnerable” people around the world or the almost 17 million high-risk Americans, the pandemic is not over even if restrictions are lifted. In fact, the world might become less accessible to this large group of people because with the people around them not protecting them anymore, everyday necessities, such as grocery shopping or using the bus to get there, might be unsafe.
Vaccination seems to become increasingly important, particularly for the vulnerable population. However, in the US, only 65 % of the population is considered fully vaccinated. And not every person is hesitant to get the vaccine; one reason for the low rate in some communities is simply a lack of access to the COVID shot.
And this is where DIAL comes into play. The Disability Information and Access Line is a first-of-its-kind national call center supporting people with disabilities to get vaccinated or access COVID testing sites. They help with finding local vaccination locations, assist with making appointments, and connect callers to available testing options and local services, such as accessible transportation. DIAL was created through a partnership between the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help older adults and people with disabilities get COVID-19 vaccines.
Additionally, DIAL provides information and resources to individuals with disabilities, families, direct support professionals and caregivers regarding all their questions about COVID vaccines and booster shots. DIAL also connects callers to information and services that promote independent living and address fundamental needs such as food, community access and participation, services addressing social determinants of health, disability rights, and transportation.
DIAL is available by phone at 888-677-1199 from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday with specialists available in any language. DIAL is also reachable by email at DIAL@usaginganddisability.org. Learn more at https://acl.gov/DIAL.
Deaf and hard-of-hearing people can reach DIAL using the 711/Video Relay Service (VRS). To use this free service, simply dial 711 and you will be connected with a communications assistant with whom you can text. The DIAL information specialists are trained to work with people of various communications abilities, including spending as much time as needed to understand what they are saying.
For people who do not communicate through speech, sign language or VRS, email is the best option to communicate with DIAL.