CORONAVIRUS

Balky Sign-ups Complicate Virus Vaccinations For Blind, Deaf

Mar 27, 2021, 9:23 AM | Updated: 11:58 am
FILE - Gov. Cox said even though case counts are dropping it's important that residents keep gettin...
FILE - Gov. Cox said even though case counts are dropping it's important that residents keep getting fully vaccinated with booster shots. (KSL TV)
(KSL TV)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Unable to see, Carla McQuillan typically uses a program that converts the letters on a screen into audible words when she wants to read something online. The tool wouldn’t work when she tried to schedule an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine, however.

“When I clicked, it wouldn’t tell me what the date was. I could have tapped on something, but I wouldn’t have known what it was,” said McQuillan, who operates a Montessori school and serves as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. Her husband, who can see, eventually helped out.

In Alabama, Donte Little helped 20 blind and deaf people who had trouble signing up for vaccinations and getting to a clinic for shots.

“It’s been a challenge for anybody. Add deafness or blindness on top of it and it’s that much more of one,” said Little, who is visually impaired and directs a regional center for the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.

The confusing maze of websites, phone numbers, emails and paper documents required to sign up for an immunization in the United States is presenting a challenge for people who are visually impaired or hard of hearing. Providers are using multiple different systems that can vary by state and even cities, they say, often forcing the disabled to rely on others to help them get in line.

Federal laws require communications in an understandable format and accommodations to assist people who might face obstacles, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has laid out instructions that include having local health departments provide staff to address accessibility needs and plans.

But the National Federation of the Blind wrote to every U.S. governor last month complaining about hurdles posed by balky sign-up systems and vaccine distribution methods including drive-up clinics, which it said are largely inaccessible to people who can’t see. The group has yet to receive a “substantive” response from any state, spokesman Chris Danielsen said.

Separately, the National Association of the Deaf said problems including confusing and complex information, phone systems that can’t be used by hard of hearing and a lack of interpreters is making it difficult for people who can’t hear to make appointments for immunizations. Chief Executive Howard A. Rosenblum said the group has asked the Biden administration for help.

“The process continues to be very haphazard and confusing for everyone, but particularly for people with disabilities due to the lack of foresight on accessibility,” he said in an email.

Such problems could affect millions.

The CDC reports that an estimated 12 million Americans over the age of 40 have impaired vision, including 1 million who are blind, and the National Association of the Deaf said a 2011 study found that 48 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. The National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness estimated in 2008 that about 40,000 U.S. adults were both deaf and blind.

Tara L. Invidiato, a director with the American Association of the DeafBlind, said members trying to sign up for vaccines have faced multiple problems including glitchy websites, inaccessible notifications and the speed required to fill out forms while reading Braille.

“I had to rely on someone who can see and that is unsettling because we the DeafBlind aim for independent living and we know we can do things by ourselves for the most part,” she said in an email interview.

Robert Weinstock, who is profoundly deaf, said clunky telephone systems are posing problems for some who can’t hear because some appointment hotlines don’t have workers who understand how to use video services that allow for communication by sign language. That leads to frustration and calls that end with hang-ups, he said.

“Also, some sites will accept pre-registration online, but conduct the actual scheduling via telephone, leaving voice messages even when the deaf person has explicitly requested contact via text or email. This can be a significant barrier,” said Weinstock, director of public relations at Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf.

Alicia Wooten, who works with a COVID-19 team at Gallaudet, which is in Washington, D.C., said simply getting the word out to deaf people about vaccination availability is a problem because so much notification is done by platforms including radio.

“This means the Deaf community has a delay in getting information, so that by the time they try to register, vaccines are already reserved. The cycle is then repeated,” she said an an email.

But there are cases where the system is working. Weinstock said both he and his wife went to vaccination locations and got shots with relative ease because there were interpreters and people had been trained.

“Every single person I spoke with, from check-in to ‘recovery,’ whipped out their smartphones and used a notes app to converse with me, or wrote on paper, or otherwise made sure I was fully included,” Weinstock, who lives in Maryland, said in an email exchange.

Robert Jaquiss, who is blind, experienced problems firsthand when he tried to get an appointment for a shot in Missoula, Montana. He was eventually able to snag a time with the help of a friend who can see, but Jaquiss said the sign-up system isn’t built to accommodate people unable to navigate quickly during the process.

“I can’t just zip-zip through,” Jaquiss, 67, said in a phone interview. “When they say a site link opens up at 1 p.m., they mean 1 p.m., and if you’re not Johnny on the spot the appointments are gone.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus

...
Ashley Moser

Flu, COVID and RSV all trending down for the first time in months, says CDC

Major respiratory illnesses are all trending down for the first time since September, according to the CDC.
11 days ago
FILE PHOTO (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)...
Josh Ellis

Utah doctor, others charged with running COVID vaccine scheme, issuing fake records and giving fake shots

A Utah plastic surgeon, his medical corporation and three others have been charged after prosecutors say they issued fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards and injected minors with saline shots.
17 days ago
Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of Salt Lake County Health Department, left, discusses schoolch...
Michael Houck

Salt Lake County ends its COVID-19 emergency status

After nearly three years, the Salt Lake County Health Department ended its COVID emergency status Tuesday. 
25 days ago
FILE: People line up in their cars as members of the Utah National Guard give COVID-19 swab tests a...
Eliza Pace

Gov. Cox, along with 24 other governors, call on President Biden to end Federal Public Health Emergency

Gov. Spencer Cox signed a letter with 24 other governors calling on President Joe Biden to end the federal public health emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic.
2 months ago
U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes guests to the East Room of the White House on December 14, 2022 i...
ZEKE MILLER, AP White House Correspondent

White House reveals winter COVID-19 plans, more free tests

The Biden administration is again making some free COVID-19 tests available to all U.S. households as it unveils its contingency plans for potential coronavirus surges this winter.
2 months ago
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference, Feb. 1, 2022, in Miami. Gov. DeSa...
FREIDA FRISARO, Associated Press

DeSantis seeks grand jury investigation of COVID-19 vaccines

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking the state’s Supreme Court to convene a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing” with respect to the COVID-19 vaccines.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Balky Sign-ups Complicate Virus Vaccinations For Blind, Deaf