Those problems violate the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which established the right to communications in an accessible format, multiple legal experts and disability advocates said. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law that prohibits governments and private businesses from discriminating based on disability, further enshrined this protection in 1990.
Doris Ray, 72, who is blind and has a significant hearing impairment, ran into such problems when she tried to sign up for a vaccine last month with the CDC’s system, used by Arlington County in Virginia. As the outreach director for the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia, an advocacy center run by and for people with disabilities, she had qualified for the vaccine because of her in-person work with clients.
When she used screen-reading technology, which reads a website’s text aloud, the drop-down field to identify her county did not work. She was unable to register for over two weeks, until a colleague helped her.
“This is outrageous in the time of a public health emergency, that blind people aren’t able to access something to get vaccinated,” Ray said.
Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, wrote to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in early December, laying out his concerns on vaccine accessibility.