COVID-19 Information for Self-Advocates in Florida
This information was compiled by Florida Self-Advocates Network'D (FL SAND) to provide self-advocates with basic facts and information about their rights so they are able to participate in decisions about their lives .
Things are changing everyday and there's a lot of information out there. Make sure you are getting your information from good sources. If you aren't sure, ask for help from a family member or caregiver. Here's an easy-to-read guide on basic information about the virus and how to protect yourself.
APD Info for
The Agency for Persons with Disabilities has an abundance of helpful information on its website, apdcares.org, including these two resources.
Questions About Services & Providers
Direct Support Workers that come into your home for personal care and other vital tasks like shopping are considered "essential workers" during the pandemic. APD is ready to help when/if you encounter problems with your services. We've attempted to answer the most common questions below.
Vaccine & Other Healthcare Rights
Vaccines for COVID-19 became available in December of 2020 in phased distribution. Those believed to be the most vulnerable to the virus are being vaccinated in the first phases. In March 2021, Florida began vaccinating those considered by medical providers to be "extremely vulnerable." This is the group that includes many adults with disabilities, regardless of age. In order to get the vaccine in this group if you are under the age of the current general population phase, you must present this form completed and signed by your doctor at the vaccination site.
Since each Florida County has different procedures for vaccination registration, we are finding that your local media is a good source for learning where vaccines are being distributed in your county and how to register for an appointment. The following sources will also be helpful.
If you are refused a vaccine at a FEMA or Department of Health site in your county or region, ask to see the site's incident commander. These sites are required to administer vaccines to individuals who have the medical form referenced above.
Contact Disability Rights Florida here if you have questions about your legal rights or feel you are being discriminated against at a vaccine site.
Your Healthcare Rights in the age of COVID-19
When people began being hospitalized for COVID-19 last year, the federal government reminded hospitals that discriminating against a patient because they have a disability is against the law! You, your family, and your caregivers must still be prepared to remind doctors and nurses of this if you feel you are being denied the same level of care as someone without a disability. The resources at the links below will help you understand and advocate for your rights!
Photos provided via free download from Pixabay.com
Be proactive in speaking to your providers about special needs you have related to the pandemic. You may be able to make changes to your cost plan.
APD will provide a curfew letter to essential direct support providers who must travel to client homes during community curfews and shelter-in-place orders. DSPs can get a curfew letter from their APD regional manager.
APD is able to pay direct service workers to provide services to clients in the hospital. Providers and clients will have to follow hospital visitation policies. If you are unable to receive necessary services while in the hospital from your provider or another caregiver, please let your support coordinator know and/or contact FL SAND at firstname.lastname@example.org.
APD is activating emergency staffing plans and doing everything they can to avoid staffing shortages. They do not anticipate any shortages; but if you do encounter DSPs who are not able to provide services, contact your support coordinator and/or the APD regional manager in your area.
APD has guidance on its website for acquiring masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). If your provider does not have a mask or other PPE and you feel unsafe, first ask them to review the information on APD's website. If this does not correct the problem, contact your support coordinator and/or the APD regional manager in your area.
Tips for working with support staff during the pandemic provided by SARTAC and Green Mountain Self-Advocates.
Work,Benefits & Financial Advocacy
Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights Bulletin on medical care discrimination based upon disability.
Disability Rights Florida's letter to Governor DeSantis urging action to prevent medical rationing. You can also share this with your medical providers.
Contact Disability Rights Florida here if you have questions about your legal rights or feel you are being discriminated against because of your disability. APD clients can also contact their support coordinator and/or the APD Regional office in their area. Click here for contact information.
Calls & Advocacy Opportunities
Many national advocacy groups are providing tools to address various issues using the social media hashtag #weareessential. Those resources can be accessed here.
As statewide advocacy opportunities present themselves, FL SAND will reach out to its membership via email and on social media. Be sure to check our social media pages regularly.
FL SAND Leadership will be hosting calls each Monday at 3:30 PM (Eastern) to update self-advocates on issues related to the pandemic and to answer questions.
Email email@example.com to receive the login/call-in numbers.
We're all in this together and we need each other!
If you have questions, you can reach FL SAND and Florida Self-Advocacy Central at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please share this page with other self-advocates, family members, and disability stakeholders.