Your legally protected right to communicate does not disappear during a pandemic! If you have a communication-related disability or condition and rely on tools and supports like low or high tech augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) devices, other forms of assistive technology, interpreters, or human revoicers to communicate your needs, preferences, and consent, you still have the right to access your communication supports even if you get COVID-19 and must be hospitalized and isolated away from trusted people who know how to support your communication.
We are also concerned that members of our population unlawfully will be the first to be denied treatment if medical resources (ventilators, ICU beds, etc.) are limited. If we do not have access to the communication supports we need (including loved ones who can advocate on our behalf), health care providers may make incorrect assumptions about us, the worth of our lives, and our likelihood of survival.
CommunicationFIRST created a printable and customizable COVID-19 Communication Rights Toolkit (https://communicationfirst.org/covid-19/) to help patients, family members, and support personnel protect a patient's access to their communication supports if they have to be hospitalized during this pandemic. We are translating it into other languages.
CommunicationFIRST is the only national (US-based) 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for people with disabilities that is focused on advocating for the civil rights of people with expressive communication disabilities. You can learn more about us and our work here: https://communicationfirst.org/.
We are seeking funding that will enable us to help elevate our community's unique issues within the medical and policy communities and to create additional free COVID-19-specific communication rights resources for the estimated 5 million people in the United States who cannot rely on speech to communicate in the best of times.
If you are in a position to contribute even $10, you can make a huge difference! Donations are tax-deductible. Thank you, and stay safe!