CINCINNATI – President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Equity Task Force is about to get an ear from a Cincinnati doctor.
Dr. Kara Ayers holds a Ph.D. and works with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which operates its national center for health dignity for people with disabilities. Her affiliation with the national organization prompted the White House to speak at the virtual meeting on Friday, but that’s not the only part she has in the conversation.
For Ayers, it’s personal too.
“I’ve definitely had sleepless nights worrying about our family’s future and health during this pandemic,” she said. Ayers doesn’t just run the CDHPD. She and her husband live in conditions that weaken bones and lungs, and both of them are in wheelchairs.
Dr. Kara Ayers poses with her husband and children in this undated photo.
She said they see a clear bias towards people with disabilities when it comes to getting access to the vaccine.
“The biggest problem was just the lack of consideration for needs related to disabilities,” she said. “We hear of some of these mass (vaccination) sites that are a great way to vaccinate a lot of people at the same time, but for someone with autism or sensory issues, that noisy, huge, crowded room in itself could be a huge deterrent.”
She also pointed out characteristics of vaccination registration websites: Many websites are not easily accessible for people with visual impairments, making them and the people who represent their organizations feel dispensable.
“I’ve heard a lot of voices just saying, ‘I don’t feel considered worthy.’ If something as small as my ability to use the website is not taken into account, what does that tell me about policymakers who remember me? ”She said.
The best scenario for some, she said, is a delay in getting their vaccination. Sometimes the consequences could be worse.
“We have real concerns about people who are still waiting or who have encountered these barriers and don’t seem to get through,” she said.
Ultimately, Ayers fears that trying to control the process of registering for the vaccine could lead people with disabilities down a path of desperation.
“Feeling forgotten means feeling devalued,” she said. “I know the wealth of benefits our disabled community brings to every community, family, school, and job they are in, and I wish more people could see that value.”
Ayers was due to speak to Biden’s task force on Friday afternoon, but that hearing has been postponed.