Here is some of the information I’ve picked up from various organizations working to support people with disabilities at this time. Let me know if you’d like more information:
- The D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council (https://ddc.dc.gov/) has assembled a resource list (see https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DBEvPnvjTcKpnTwg8_7hI98yl0bls5N_/view) to help people, along with their families, direct support professionals, and other supporters to stay connected. This will continue being updated, so please contact DDC executive director Alison Whyte (email@example.com) with your ideas for additions to the list. Also, yesterday the DDC shared this statement https://drive.google.com/file/d/1S_8SQJBa4QJtqkLfxNQYZDCyHEZBjpfK/view?usp=sharing
with DC government agencies and the DC council, to ensure that evolving plans take full account of people with developmental and other disabilities in our community. The DD Council also is sharing plain-language information about covid19 with organizations and individuals.
- There has been considerable dialogue at both the national and local levels about the impact of distance learning on students with disabilities. This fact sheet https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/frontpage/faq/rr/policyguidance/Supple%20Fact%20Sheet%203.21.20%20FINAL.pdf is the most recent national guidance. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is not waived. Locally, there are initiatives by the DC government and community groups to ensure that students have access to devices needed for remote learning, although training students not already familiar with the technology is among the challenges.
- At this moment, the D.C. Summer Youth Employment Program (https://does.dc.gov/service/marion-s-barry-summer-youth-employment-program-participant-information) is scheduled to go forward, with flexibilities in place for online applications.
- For adults receiving residential supports from the Department on Disability Services, advocacy efforts are under way, led by the DC Coalition (http://dc-coalition.org/) to get the D.C. government to anticipate staffing shortages for in-home direct support professionals (DSPs) by: 1) boosting remote/technology based supports for people who may not need as much hands-on care; 2) designating DSPs as essential employees so that, in the case of a more stringent lockdown, they can get to their jobs; and 3) enabling hazard pay for DSPs – who are currently doing without any protective gear - in case they need to support someone who has tested positive (which has not yet occurred). Monitoring of homes continues, though remotely, by Quality Trust (https://www.dcqualitytrust.org/) staff.
- Advocacy also is under way to try to ensure that therapists providing mental-health supports through the Department on Behavioral Health (DBH) can get paid for doing so remotely, and to get the home-delivered meals that the Department on Aging and Community Living (DACL) is providing seniors also to go to people with disabilities that DACL supports. These are works in progress.
In this time of likely staff shortages and other dislocations, it is even more important for the D.C. government - Melissa Bird (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Andy Reese (email@example.com), please take note – to ensure that people with disabilities are not missed in the DC census. Government guidance was not issued before the covid19 crisis, and still has not been. For the moment it appears census responses are being handled residence by residence, which depends on overburdened individual staffers to get the cards filled out. In current circumstances, more centralized methods of ensuring an accurate count are going to be needed if we want to ensure everyone is counted
Supporting, and heeding the voice of, people with disabilities must be an intentional and integral part of all planning by the DC government at this time. Hoping for the best is not an option. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your concerns about inclusion of people with disabilities in the planning!