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DRM’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Related Advocacy

Health Care:

Disability Services Personnel Are Essential:

  • April 3, 2020 – The Developmental Disabilities Coalition, in collaboration with Disability Rights Maryland and other organizations, sent a letter to State Governor Larry Hogan in response to the Executive Order (March 31, 2020) determining disability services personnel as health care providers necessary for Maryland’s response to COVID-19. More information can be found here.

Protect Disability Rights if Ventilators are Rationed:

  • April 9, 2020 – Disability Rights Maryland and 20 disability advocates signed on to a letter to State Governor Larry Hogan in early April, urging him to pledge to protect the rights of Marylanders with disabilities if ventilators are rationed during the COVID-19 crisis. More information can be found here.

Allowing Disability Support for People with Disabilities in Health Care Facilities:

  • April 30, 2020 – Casey Shea, a Staff Attorney with Disability Rights Maryland, sent this letter on behalf of the organization to urge the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to take swift action to provide statewide guidance to hospitals and health care facilities concerning visitors and other reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • May 12, 2020 –MDH and the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD) issued a directive requiring that hospitals issue policies providing for disability support personnel for people with disabilities needing support. A few weeks later, the State issued a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guidance document addressing “Access to Support for Patients with Disabilities in Hospital Settings.”
  • August 26, 2020 – Disability Rights Maryland with a Coalition of disability organizations sent a letter to MDH and MDOD requesting that the State of Maryland take further action to ensure that visitor and reasonable accommodation policies are adopted by health care facilities throughout the state to ensure that health care facilities do not discriminate against patients and consumers with disabilities. The Coalition’s recommendations include that MDH:
    • Amend Maryland’s Disability Support Directive to provide clear non-discrimination expectations for all Maryland health care facility providers (expanding from previous policy only covering hospitals).
    • Provide an expedited mechanism to (1) review disability support personnel access and other disability accommodation requests and (2) to review health care facility policies and enforce the Secretaries’ directive.
    • (1) Post the directive clearly on state webpages; (2) provide notice and contact information related to complaints about violations of the directive; and (3) update the directive to require health care facilities to list a contact point familiar with Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability support personnel legal requirements to whom questions or violations of the directive may be addressed.
    • Use the Framework developed by national disability rights advocates to create clear expectations and a notice of rights in the state directive and policy FAQs, including clearly advertising and posting notice of the directive at patient entry points in every facility, on the facility’s website, and providing the information to patients; and clarifying that COVID-19 positive patients are still entitled to access in-person disability support.
  • September 24, 2020 – MDOD Secretary Carol Beatty and MDH Secretary Robert Neall responded to the disability Coalition stakeholders and issued new directive and guidance documents regarding disability support personnel in health care facilities. The newly expanded directive and guidance replaces the May 12, 2020 directive and applies to all licensed Maryland hospitals, related institutions, freestanding medical facilities, freestanding ambulatory care facilities, chronic disease centers, hospice care facilities, comprehensive rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, and assisted living programs (health care providers). Other changes in the directive and guidance make clear that patients with COVID-19 have the right to access support persons; provides that support persons “are permitted to access restrooms, food, and drink while in the health care facility”; requires facilities to take clear, affirmative steps to directly notify residents/patients of disability support rights and how to request them; requires facilities to make sure they can process requests for support persons “during all operational hours”; and posting the policies on the MDH and DOD state websites. With the change, Maryland health care providers are required to adopt policies on or before October 1, 2020, that comply with the directive.
    • Self Advocacy Resources:
      • Autism Self Advocacy Network and Green Mountain Self Advocates “Know Your Rights: Bringing a Supporter to a Hospital or a Doctor’s Office”: Resource
      • Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council “Access to support for people with disabilities in hospital settings FAQs”: Resource

Voting:

Provide Polling Centers with Accessible Voting Machines:

  • April 11, 2020 – David A. Prater, a Managing Attorney with Disability Rights Maryland, sent this letter on behalf of the organization to urge the State Board of Elections (SBE) to provide an option for accessible voting machines at accessible polling locations for the Special General Election, to be held on April 28, 2020.

Education:

Help Baltimore City Youth Get Internet Access for Distance Learning:

  • April 24, 2020 – Disability Rights Maryland joined nearly 60 other advocates in signing onto a letter sent by the Baltimore Teachers Union to address the digital divide in Baltimore City. The coalition called on city officials to make an emergency financial investment into the purchase of technology for the children and families who need computers or internet access in their homes. More information can be found here.

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Last Updated: September 30, 2020

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