Ableism COVID Style — Accessible Vaccine Sites
Another day — Another barrier
I sent this message to a contact within Santa Clara County OEM.
I believe this pop up clinic was facilitated by a SJ council person so it may not be under county. This one was at Foxdale Apartments. I’m attaching a photo from a post I saw. The ongoing assumption that all people are able bodied is really killing disabled people. I would say a disabled person in East San Jose has it much harder than I do, so vaccine access is very important.
Do pop up vaccine site have to follow ADA parameters and county guidelines?
My contact replied including a couple of people within the city.
Yes. You are correct, Michele — this Clinic was facilitated through City of San Jose, and I believe that ADA parameters/guidelines would be followed as in all areas where equal access applies.
Anh and Alvin. I am linking you both in directly to Michele and M* (name anonymized) based on an email from earlier today. Hoping you’ll be able to respond and/or direct the concerns Michele raises in her email below.
Thank you D* and J* for the connection.
M* (nice to hear from you) and Michele (nice to e-meet you). You are right, this clinic was in partnership with our City, Safeway, and Project Access.
This picture that is referenced is indeed, a field waiting area, as the indoor space can only accommodate 6 vaccination stations to adhere to social distancing rules and accommodate for efficient ingress/egress traffic. We have a registration/queuing area just on the other side of the building that is also accessible. If someone needed special accommodations, we wouldn’t have them go through a flow wouldn’t be feasible for them to reach the field, and would make accommodations to meet their needs, whether it means taking a vaccination station outside in the other parking lot where the registration area is (not pictured), or find alternative ways to get that individual vaccinated by our provider or through our partners. Since we’ve done 2 other vaccination operations last week with our disability community stakeholders for persons with disabilities (Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, San Andreas Regional, Parents Helping Parents, and even consulted with Liz Dietz from American Red Cross who is a FAST Trainer), we’ve tried our best to continuously iterate/implement/pivot given those experiences.
When trying to reach highly impacted communities/ highly vulnerable communities especially on the East Side (where the biggest barrier to vaccinations are site operation hours, Spanish & Vietnamese language access) where facilities & building units are compactly placed (most spaces are even multi-family dwellings), sometimes we can’t always find the perfect most spacious place that meets all of the ADA accommodations and requirements- but it’s still the place where our families that have the most need are, and it’s the place that they want us to come to. Project Access, a learning center for disadvantaged children, offered their site and Safeway Pharmacy, our clinical partner volunteered to put on a weekend event to ensure that working families who are constrained by having to hold down more than one job to make ends meet and still have to care for their elderly parents and young children can get an opportunity to get vaccinated. We knew that language support, food support, and space accommodations will be our biggest challenge, and were ready to make it work in any way that we can to ensure that we do not turn anyone away, including members of the disability community. We try our very best to delicately balance and juggle to meet the needs of our community members, factoring in their language access needs, with access and functional needs, even mental and health support services, and working to accommodate weekend hours and off hours- all in effort to make community vaccinations happen. The county has been our biggest support network, working to carry the brunt of the vaccination effort and getting us to over 50% of the county population vaccinated.
We are excited and focused in our efforts to learn more about how we can balance inclusion and equity in our vaccination support operations, especially as it relates to serving highly vulnerable populations as a whole, being considerate of the language and cultural nuances of each underserved community more specifically, and lifting up communities of color without the exclusionary perception of prioritizing one community over the other because the last thing that we want is to create more division and distrust in a time when we need to come together to lift each other up and out of this pandemic. We know that we have much to learn as the disability community is a vibrant and multifaceted community that. are made up of people that come in many different forms, have different ways of expression, require individualized accommodations, and should not be limited by or addressed with blanket solutions. I thank you for your continued advocacy, for every lesson learned, every pro-tip given, and your tireless efforts in all that you do.
With All My Best,
EOC- Vaccination Task Force Director
So this message is going out on a day when I discovered I may [not] have effective transportation to my 2nd vaccine appointment. My patience is in short supply. But to summarize, this is absolutely ableist. People on the East Side include people with disabilities and children with disabilities who are likely from Vietnamese, Latine, Indigenous, and Black families who experience more struggle then other families from the same groups who do not have a disability. But you are saying the site is not open to them and they need to go elsewhere? How is that equity?
I agree it is important to meet everyone where they need to be met and it is very important to be creative to ensure those needs are met within the structures and schedules we all contend with. But please do not fool yourself to think you are actually not being ableist in this situation. The poverty rate for adults with disabilities is more than twice the rate of adults with no disability.
Healthy, inclusive community planning is about making the healthiest choices the easiest and most accessible by removing barriers and providing needed assistance and resources to ALL community members at ALL levels. The realities of intersectionality include ability level, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, employment status, and education level. Not all variables are equal with people of color being impacted a lot more because of the structural inequities that still exist. Add in any of these other issues and the oppression and inequity is compounded, not multiplied. Whenever you are looking at those communities there is a hard reality that the Latino family with a child with disabilities that works 2–4 jobs per adult, living in a too small space is impacted and placed at a disadvantage that comes from both internal cultural issues as well as the external barriers. The family with a disabled child is still greatly impacted by the 2–4 jobs, living in too small of a space, and so on. If we meet the needs of one group but not the other, have we really been equitable? Or is it just the assumption that disabled people can go elsewhere and you do not wish to deal with that reality?
A quick and easy solution is a plywood panel set up in one corner of the lot that will allow at least 1 station to be wheelchair accessible and enable your vaccine clinic to still meet the demands of the populations that require these essential programs. It does not require extra space but rather better planning and more forethought into how do we meet all the needs. That specific space may go unused or a senior using a walker who cannot easily walk on the grass may benefit from the setup. Over time, more people show up to these functions because they learn they can trust their “special” needs will be prioritized much like race, class, and sex currently are in the process of achieving. Yet these items are stunted too by the attitudes and beliefs of people who like you feel they are not as important.
There is a reality that families and people with disabilities have learned to not trust the system to accommodate their needs. They have learned that they are welcome in one place but not the other. Separate but equal is NEVER equal. To create 2 programs to meet the needs of ALL RESIDENTS of San Jose is a waste of resource when in reality ableist people need to stop and realize that there are simple solutions that will make an either/or situation actually a both/and situation. These simple solutions will result in all residents being served with less burden and strain in the long run for the governing bodies.
Ableism says disability access needs are special accommodations and fixes to use up the spaces kept for those in the primary focus group. Ableism blinds you to the reality that by serving all people at the intersectional points of oppression is actually better for this society. People who struggle with access and functional needs which includes languages and some of the other issues you prioritize are burdened by the attitudes and platitudes of seemingly well-intended people. We are burdened because the inequity is built into the systems and that inequity continues to cause great harm to those overlooked.
So please try to see what can be done to be more inclusive at these pop up events. I can send a bunch of resources or you can use the guides that the County has poured a lot of time and energy into to create more equitable solutions for everyone in Santa Clara County.
I have not seen you in the AFN Working Group meetings that are run by SVILC. In case you need a refresher on what AFN stands for: here is a link that will define it more clearly for you. The city of San Jose continues to fail to. understand equity. DREDF has a great equity inclusion statement. You may want to take a look. While members of disadvantaged communities may have received important and vital services, equity was not achieved.