Warren Joins Menendez in Urging White House Coronavirus Taskforce to Ensure Persons with Limited English Proficiency and Disabilities Have Accessible COVID-19 Information
Recent reports highlight the life-threatening consequences to people of color and people with disabilities of lacking access to inclusive materials to protect themselves from COVID-19; “Our national response cannot be successful if whole sections of our society are unable to access timely and accurate information about the virus, health information, and services that may benefit them during the pandemic”
Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, calling on the White House Coronavirus Task Force to ensure persons with limited English proficiency (LEP) and persons with disabilities can access accurate information and updates on COVID-19. This includes information on benefits and programs included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Family First Response Act. The letter also urged the Task Force to encourage every federal agency to create culturally sensitive informational materials that are accessible in various formats and multiple languages, including for individuals with limited literacy. The senators’ push follows recent reports highlighting the life-threatening consequences to people of color and people with disabilities of lacking access to culturally competent, language-specific, and/or disability-sensitive materials to protect themselves from the dangers of COVID-19.
The role of the Task Force is to “monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus, while ensuring that the American people have the most accurate and up-to-date health and travel information,” so it has a responsibility to understand the barriers created by language and access impediments.
“Our national response cannot be successful if whole sections of our society are unable to access timely and accurate information about the virus, health information, and services that may benefit them during the pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote.
While many states and territories have disseminated multilingual and sign language interpreted information on COVID-19, relatively little federal guidance is similarly accessible. Much of the federal aid available to people during the COVID-19 crisis requires them to read and fill out forms, and engage in online and verbal phone communications.
“Interpretation and translation is not enough; the incorporation of multilingual staff, accessibility media analysts, language inclusion evaluations, and additional funding for language services is necessary,” the lawmakers continued, calling on the Taskforce to work with and include representatives from LEP communities, interpreting agencies, and organizations led by persons with disabilities in the development of any policies and procedures affecting these communities to ensure accuracy and inclusive content.
Along with Senators Warren and Menendez, the letter was signed by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.).
Senator Warren is a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, including during the current crisis. She and Senators Casey, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Brown, Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), along with a number of their colleagues, recently urged House and Senate leadership to prioritize the needs of people with disabilities in the next COVID-19 package. Senators Warren and Casey, along with a number of their colleagues, also urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to protect people with disabilities and elderly Americans from discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Warren's Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act also includes a provision requiring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to publicize data on how COVID-19 has impacted people with disabilities.
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