Midlands Voices: Ensure that testing, vaccinations will meet wants of disabled Nebraskans | Columnists


By Eric A. Evans and Tania Diaz

It’s been eleven months since the U.S. officially declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, but Nebraskans with disabilities are still waiting for state officials to devise a comprehensive, effective plan that ensures equitable access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment during the current period ensures pandemic.

Disability Rights Nebraska is a not-for-profit organization designated under federal law as a protection and advocacy system for Nebraska people with disabilities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been conducting remote border-to-border interviews, focusing on residential facilities such as group homes, assisted living facilities and long-term care facilities. Time and time again we have heard loud and clear: “Nebraska had little or no plan to ensure that people with disabilities were cared for in an emergency.”

As our recently published report “A Widening Divide” documents, the consequences of this lack of planning are astounding. It affected some institutions at the most basic level of food insecurity. Most had no help in acquiring personal protective equipment and to this day TestNebraska is fundamentally inaccessible to many people, especially people with disabilities. The only way to access and use TestNebraska’s screening tool is to get online, which will exclude people who cannot use the internet. Even those who manage to get screened online will then have to get to a testing site, which is simply not feasible for many people with disabilities. Think of the residents of a dementia ward. Think of the Nebraskans who live in a group home and do not have a license due to their mental or developmental disability. Think of the adults who live below the poverty line in an assisted living facility in a small rural community with no public transport. How are these Nebraskans supposed to use TestNebraska?

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