The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the globe—changing the way people work and live. Public health messages about ways to mitigate the spread of the virus continue to be a key tool. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to make essential health information and resources accessible to as wide an audience as possible, including people with disabilities. According to CDC, 61 million people in the United States have a disability and some people with disabilities may be at higher risk of COVID-19 infection or severe illness.
While a number of existing CDC public health resources were accessible for people with some disabilities, there were others who needed guidance in different accessible formats including braille, American Sign Language, and simplified text or easy-to-read materials.
To address this need, Georgia Tech’s Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation (CIDI), with funding from the CDC Foundation and technical assistance from CDC, recently launched a microsite to host CDC guidance and information on COVID-19 in alternative formats.
“It’s really important to have health information presented in a way that is accessible to everyone so that people can adopt the mitigation strategies and protect themselves in their communities,” said Sarah Anderson, the CDC Foundation health communication specialist managing the project.
These materials resulted from collaboration with multiple partner organizations including Deaf Link; the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, Department of Allied Health Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the American Association on Health and Disability.
As partners developed these materials, they were tested with target disability audiences to ensure their accuracy and accessibility.
The importance of providing critical information to a variety of audiences informs most of the daily work of Pat Herndon, assistant state librarian and director of Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services, Georgia Public Library Service.
“As a librarian, I understand that people need information delivered to them in a format that they can effectively use and interpret. Our patrons appreciate having reliable information presented to them in a format that is comfortable for them to intake and interpret, whether it is braille, American Sign Language, or an audio file,” said Herndon. “Even people who do not rely on standard print need access to reliable health information. We are glad that CIDI and the CDC Foundation have partnered to make these materials widely available.”
Through the microsite, individuals and organizations can access braille-ready files and request that resources in embossed braille be mailed directly to them at no-cost. The microsite will continue to update materials and add content as more becomes available.
“The goal of this project is to provide essential information during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as ensure that the lessons we’ve learned and the tools we’ve created can be used in future public health emergencies,” said Anderson.
In addition to providing CDC guidance in multiple formats, the project hosted six webinars, covering topics including considerations for face masks for people with disabilities to best practices for sanitizing personal durable medical equipment and wheelchairs during the COVID-19 pandemic, how to create accessible and inclusive social media posts and guidance for employers on protecting their staff with disabilities during COVID-19. To view accessible COVID-19 materials and learn more about the project, visit https://cidi.gatech.edu/covid.