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What if four patients in respiratory distress need a ventilator to keep them alive, but a hospital has just one available? Who makes that call? And how?
Public health and community leaders are contemplating excruciating dilemmas just like that before demanding for medical help in the coronavirus crisis peaks in coming weeks.
They’re updating protocols, called “crisis standards of care,” for the most urgent medical decision-making possible, guidelines to determine, as resources get scarce, who gets care and at what level and who does not.
CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program has numerous and growing concerns regarding discrimination against people with disabilities as a direct result of decision-making by both private and public entities occurring during the pandemic. When a crisis hits, as we all know (or at least our community is now finding out) people with disabilities and our civil rights get kicked to the curb!
These bad actors jump at every opportunity to Take advantage of what they call our “special rights,” but now that dogged discrimination is multiplied exponentially in order to violate our rights every time the word “emergency” gets used. These evildoers and lawbreakers will do everything in their power to ignore us and act as though somehow emergencies affect the lives of everyone else except people with disabilities. We know just the opposite is true.
Although Governor Polis’ administration has continued working with CCDC in a collaborative fashion and actively seeks input from CCDC regarding the needs of the disability community (something sorely lacking with respect to our needs and rights at other levels of government), the Civil Rights Legal Program stands ready to address to the best of our ability any form of discrimination against any individual or group on the basis of disability as a result of decision-making by governmental entities or private entities (such as the police, transportation providers, government entities failing to provide effective communication, doctors’ offices treating you differently based on disability, etc.) that occur related to the pandemic. All of us at CCDC, who have been working tirelessly to do our best to help our community in this time of crisis see COVID-19: RESOURCES, LINKS, AND INFORMATION FOR PEOPLE WITH AND WITHOUT DISABILITIES, recognize that almost everyone has been hit very hard by current circumstances, but that does not permit discrimination against people with disabilities to be allowed to go unchecked. We will not do so! Now, more than ever, our civil rights must and will be enforced!
As we all know, we always face the same problems as everyone else plus all of the problems related to our disabilities, most of which would be alleviated if people would simply do what they are supposed to under civil rights laws, but during this unprecedented and unimaginable crisis, we are really feeling the devastation far more so than our nondisabled counterparts. So many of us are just trying to figure out how to get out of bed in the morning given that we or maybe our attendants, our families, our friends, and our colleagues are falling victim to this foe that does not discriminate. Nevertheless, we are the most resilient, most resourceful and most likely to figure out the path to victory because that is what we have to do every day of our lives. For all of those reasons, we are here to help the best of our ability and in close connection with our allies in the field and other civil rights lawyers who are working harder than we’ve ever worked in our lives to make sure everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – receives the fair and equal treatment we and those who came before us have fought so hard for all of our lives.
Please go to our Intake Form for information about the types of cases we take. You can also contact our Legal Program Assistant, Kara Gillon, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 660-8254 if you feel you have been discriminated against on the basis of disability based on the above types of circumstances or any other disability-rights violation. Please remember that we only take cases involving civil rights discrimination on the basis of disability. Other problems should be handled by CCDC’s other non-attorney advocates who can be found on our website, ccdonline.org.
Obviously, we cannot guarantee that we can help in every circumstance; nor can we guarantee a perfectly successful outcome, but we have been here for you for 22 (almost 23) years doing all that we can with our small but, in my humble opinion, mighty staff taking on hundreds and hundreds of cases usually with good outcomes for the disability community in most circumstances (not always, but most). This is true even in the face of many more and more opponents who seem more defiant than ever to refuse to treat people with disabilities with humanity and equality as required on the law.
Those who would deny us our civil rights were growing in number and in willful disobedience of the law before, but this behavior is only been enhanced by the current pandemic. They never stop to think that we are the one minority group that they could join and, in the face of the current pandemic, just might join at any given moment. They need us not only to fight for ourselves but for them as well. Everyone is really just one sneeze away from the potential of needing those ventilators we keep hearing about and reading about in the news and perhaps requiring home healthcare for the rest of our lives. Oddly, many of us have lived under the circumstances for most of our lives. We truly are all in this together! But even that doesn’t stop them from discriminating and denying us equal opportunity under the law.
We must show those who will try to take advantage of a crisis to discriminate against us on the basis of our disabilities that we will not permit it! Although disability rights laws are not boundless (they do have their limitations), we are seeing firsthand and hearing about so many clear-cut violations of the law (and so many violations committed in the name of “emergencies” that we must remind those who will find any excuse to take advantage of us or the pandemic, our civil rights matter more now than ever!.
-- Kevin Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director and a member of the disability community for 33 -- almost 34 -- years and counting).
Read our letter crafted by our Executive Director and several partner organizations to Governor Polis regarding the Survival of People with Disabilities during COVID-19 Pandemic.
Download the fully accessible PDF Version
1385 S. Colorado Blvd., #610-A
Denver, CO 80222
March 25, 2020, via Electronic Mail
The Honorable Jared Polis
Colorado State Capitol
200 East Colfax Room 136
Denver, CO 80203
Re: Survival of People with Disabilities during COVID-19 Pandemic
Dear Governor Polis,
We want to start this letter by thanking you for your extraordinary leadership during this crisis. Unlike our peers in other states, we are being included in policy decisions and working closely with members of your team (like Elisabeth Arenales) and your cabinet (Kim Bimestefer, Michelle Barnes, Jill Hunsaker-Ryan, and others). We appreciate being involved and allowed to help your administration make the best possible decisions in a horrible situation.
People with disabilities and chronic health conditions are doubly vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis: they are vulnerable to acquiring the virus and to suffering more severe effects, and they are vulnerable to healthcare discrimination that may deny them necessary care. As a result, Coloradans with disabilities and chronic health conditions are experiencing escalating fear and anxiety, on top of any physical effects of the viral illness. We need your continued leadership to communicate and ensure that Colorado will protect
the rights and access to care of disabled people of all ages.
Colorado has a strong and united disability community that includes ADAPT, Centers for Independent Living, Arc Chapters, Disability Law Colorado, numerous organizations representing specific disability groups such as the Colorado Metal Wellness Network, the National Federation of the Blind Colorado chapter, and the Colorado Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind. The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) is the largest statewide organization run by and for people with all types of disabilities and we are working to coordinate with this amazing community to help with ongoing information dissemination and input to your team on policy issues. We are lucky to have such a strong and united community. This letter is written on behalf of many of these organizations, we wanted to get it out quickly so did not put extended time into sign-ons, but please note the organizations signed on below.
CCDC and others thank you for the swift and decisive actions that you have taken to protect the people of Colorado from COVID-19, reduce community spread, and flatten the curve. Your leadership will protect people with disabilities and their families from the virus’s accelerating spread, including daily increases in the deaths. Our community now asks that you take the following actions to ensure that people with disabilities receive equitable and effective healthcare in Colorado which will, in turn, help maintain the health of all Coloradans.
The prospect of shortages of medical staff and equipment for treating those made severely ill by COVID-19 has triggered a discussion of “rationing” medical care.
While the coronavirus crisis poses serious challenges to our social and health care systems, federal laws including the ADA, Section 504, Section 1557 of the ACA, and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) prohibit any “rationing” measures by public or private entities which discriminate on the basis of disability. Denying care to disabled individuals who are likely to benefit from care is unlawful.
Moreover, swift and efficient action now may prevent or ameliorate the need for untenable rationing decisions. There are additional reserves of ventilators and other medical equipment and supplies maintained by hospitals and the U.S. Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.¹ Colorado must follow its own policy statements to ensure that these stockpiles are allocated based on objective need – and distributed throughout the state of Colorado so that health care workers have them on-site.² If existing numbers are projected to be insufficient, Colorado must procure additional equipment and supplies.
People are looking for factual information, honestly, and assurances. As Governor, you are the best person to speak out about the state’s efforts to alleviate widespread fear and anxiety among vulnerable populations, including Coloradans with disabilities.
We further urge the Governor and state agencies to swiftly issue a directive to health plans and insurers, hospitals, and other medical providers on maintaining their obligations under state and federal disability nondiscrimination laws during the coronavirus crisis, including in the allocation of scarce medical resources. Such guidance should include the following basic principles:
Covered entities should be permitted to prioritize those with a greater urgency of need, and delay non-urgent care. They need not allocate scarce resources to individuals with no reasonable chance of survival. But people with disabilities should not face discrimination in seeking life-sustaining care that they will benefit from. The lives of people with disabilities are equally valuable to those without disabilities, and healthcare decisions based on devaluing the lives of people with disabilities are discriminatory. Benefit should be derived solely based on medical evidence, not a belief about the life of the patient.
Individuals with various disabilities who rely on personal care assistance face a dilemma during the COVID-19 crisis. No person with a disability should have to choose between catching a potentially deadly new virus and receiving the assistance needed to perform critical activities of daily living such as toileting, eating, dressing, etc. Personal care assistants whether paid or unpaid, should not be required to perform their duties without proper protective equipment to ensure both their own well-being as well as the continued well-being of their own families and other clients with disabilities or face the ethical dilemma of rendering necessary duties while beginning to feel sick.
The following measures are needed to preserve the well-being of people with disabilities while they shelter in place:
Even short gaps in coverage of personal care attendants and related services can lead to worsened health and unnecessary hospitalization or institutionalization, contrary to the integration principles adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). These risks are sharply heightened by the dangers posed by the coronavirus.
CCDC and the signatories below urge the following additional steps to ensure that disabled Coloradans are safe in their homes and communities with supports during the COVID-19 crisis:
We ask that Colorado take steps to bolster financial and human resources in Colorado’s legal service organizations to ensure that they have – the capacity to provide timely representation for individuals who face unlawful medical “rationing” based on disability, any unnecessary and involuntary institutionalization, evictions, benefits issues and other forms of discrimination in COVID-19 treatment and testing.
From past disasters, we know that legal services needs tend to peak 2-12 months after the disaster “ends”. Additional legal services support will be required for the next year. Specifically, Disability Law Colorado, Colorado Legal Services, Colorado CrossDisability Coalition, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, and The Colorado Center for Law and Policy will need support to meet the legal needs of low-income Coloradans with Disabilities.
We further ask that you ensure that Colorado and its agencies respond immediately and effectively to any reports or complaints indicating that the rights of people with disabilities are being violated. While this must include prioritization and streamlining of administrative complaint procedures at all relevant agencies to respond affirmatively and forcefully to any formal or informal report.
Our state has long been a leader in many aspects of healthcare, accessibility, and civil rights protections for people with disabilities. Colorado, as the home of the Atlantis Community, the organization that created ADAPT is the birthplace of the internationally known disability rights movement. Help us to maintain our reputation as a leader in preserving the rights of people with disabilities. We would welcome the opportunity to continue to work with your administration on ensuring that people with disabilities in our state receive equal and effective healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis under the priorities detailed above.
Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
Ailsa Wonnacott, Association for Community Living, Boulder and Broomfield Counties
Martha Mason, Executive Director, Southwest Center for Independence
Wilfred Romero, The Arc – Pikes Peak Region
Darla Stuart, Executive Director, The Arc of Aurora
Larry McDermott, The Arc of Weld County
Timothy Fox, Attorney at Law, Senior Partner, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
Sara Froelich, Chronic Care Collaborative
Lisa Franklin, Executive Director, Parent to Parent
Candie Burnham, Executive Director, Atlantis Community, Inc.
Robert A. Lawhead, Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council
Christiano Sosa, Executive Director, The Arc of Colorado
Hope Hyatt, Colorado Mental Wellness Network
Christine Fallebell, The American Diabetes Association
Ian Engle, Executive Director, Northwest Colorado Center for Independence
Jessalyn Hampton, National MS Society
Judith I. Ham, Ability Connection Colorado
Eileen Doherty, Colorado Gerontological Society
Barbara Henry, Domino Service Dogs
Linda Skaflen, Executive Director, The Arc of Adams County
¹ Dan Lamothe, “Pentagon offers respirators, ventilators and labs in expanding coronavirus response,” Washington Post (Mar. 17, 2020) (describing the release of 5 million masks and 2,000 ventilators from military stockpile), https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2020/03/17/pentagon-offersrespirators-ventilators-labs-expanding-coronavirus-response/;
² Surge Standards, Foundational Knowledge, § 8.4.3, Allocation of Ventilators for Pandemic Influenza, http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/sites/default/files/public/php/258/258_foundation.pdf (“[T]he allocation of ventilators from State and federal stockpiles must take into account the ratio of local populations to available resources, designating appropriate resources for the most vulnerable who are most likely to suffer the greatest impact in any disaster.”).
From Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
To ensure better outcomes for our community during this unprecedented time, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition is being proactive, compassionate, and conscious in our response to COVID-19.
Please review the following related to our business operations effective immediately and ways you can support our community:
NOTE: If you encounter inaccessible documents, videos without captions, no ASL interpreters, or any other form of disability discrimination in relation to COVID-19, please send us an email at COVID@ccdconline.org. We will take action if necessary.
If you have any other questions or concerns regarding CCDC’s response to COVID-19, email us at COVID@ccdconline.org and a staff member will reply as quickly as possible.
Stay well and remember nothing about us, without us.
Your Friends at CCDC
Nothing About Us Without Us…Ever!
CCDC is a member of OneStrongVoice.org
CCDC members have asked to hear from us about COVID 19 or the Coronavirus, and what it means for people with disabilities in Colorado. This memo will attempt to explain what we know to date. Please be assured that CCDC staff continue working (some from home and all of us safely), advocating, and ensuring the response efforts do not forget people with disabilities. We will also demand effective and accessible communication from all levels of government. If you encounter inaccessible documents, videos without captions, no ASL interpreters, or any other form of disability discrimination, please let us know immediately. We created an email address for this purpose email@example.com. Continue reading “The Coronavirus & People with Disabilities”
A Denver police officer parked a marked patrol vehicle partially in a handicap spot at the headquarters for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition last month, blocking access to a van driven by the coalition’s legal director, who uses a wheelchair. Continue reading “Denver police officer blocks handicap spot at disability advocates’ HQ during emergency call”
by: Evan Kruegel for KDVR Fox 31 Posted: Mar 5, 2020 / 10:12 PM MST / Updated: Mar 5, 2020 / 10:12 PM MST
DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Police Department has issued an apology after an officer was photographed parking in a handicap spot during an emergency call.
That handicap-accessible spot happened to be in front of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, which specializes in advocating for those with disabilities.
Photos show the officer taking up a portion of the handicap spot as well as the majority of the “access aisle,” used by many at the building to get in and out of vehicles. Continue reading “Denver officer photographed blocking handicap spot at disability advocates’ headquarters”
By Matilda Coleman- March 6, 2020 for Upnewsinfo.com
A Denver police officer parked a partially marked patrol vehicle in a disabled place at the Colorado Disability Coalition headquarters last month, blocking access to a van driven by the coalition’s legal director, who uses a wheelchair.
Legal director Kevin Williams said Thursday that he wanted to draw attention to the incident because he routinely receives complaints about Denver police parking in places for disabled people. Continue reading “Denver Police Park in place for the disabled at the headquarters of the disability advocacy group”
Posted: 8:29 PM, Feb 27, 2020 Updated: 12:29 PM, Feb 28, 2020 By: Eric Ross
COLORADO — We’ve shown you the stories of people trying to pass off untrained pets as emotional support animals.
Disability advocates say as time goes on, the problem is getting worse.
State Rep. Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs) drafted legislation as a result of a News 5 investigation we aired last Spring, but we discovered the bill is unlikely to be introduced this year. The goal of the bill would have defined the process of how people can obtain letters “certifying” their pet as an emotional support animal. Continue reading “Legislation geared toward people who register fake emotional support animals not likely to be introduced this year”
The Division of Insurance (DOI) is pleased to host a public testimony opportunity in partnership with the Behavioral Health Task Force on Friday, March 6, 2020, from 2-5 PM. We invite Colorado community members, providers, caretakers, and advocates to share their stories about their experiences interacting with the behavioral health care system. We want to know what you love, what you hate, and/or what we need as a state to ensure every single person has the opportunity to be healthy and well. Your story does not need to be related to commercial insurance. Continue reading “Behavioral Health Task Force Public Testimony at Division of Insurance on 3/6/20”