Accessibility Advisory Committee June Newsletter: Covid-19 and Long Covid as a Disability Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

As the United States passes two years of Covid-19-related illness, the country and the world have felt how many parts of daily life have been affected by this virus. Federal departments including the Department of Justice (DOJ), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Equal and Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) now recognize the impact of Covid as well as its long-lasting effects. Since 2020, there have been millions of Covid survivors in the United States alone, and according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, as many as 23 million of those survivors may have developed “Long Covid.”

What is Long Covid?

Long Covid is described as the lasting effects of the Covid-19 virus. Symptoms may include pulmonary conditions, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, tinnitus, depression, anxiety, chronic pain. Covid is still considered a relatively new condition, and there is not much known about Long Covid. Subsequently, research continues as more people report reactions to the Covid vaccine as well as Long Covid symptoms.

Are People Diagnosed with Covid-19 and Long Covid Covered by Federal Legislation?

The EEOC published an introductory technical assistance page, What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws, in March 2022. This document discusses Covid and Long Covid in the workplace, including reasonable accommodations, as both the virus and the after-effects are now considered disabilities by the EEOC. The EEOC’s page cites their many pandemic-related webinars and webpages and includes a series of Frequently Asked Questions.  

The DOJ and HHS published Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557 in July 2021. This guidance sheet explains that Long COVID can be considered a disability under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 1557). While the guidance sheet does not address Covid-19 as a disability, it does state that Long Covid does meet the federal definitions of “disability” when it limits one or more daily life activities.

Accessibility and Covid

Since early 2020, there has been plethora of websites sharing information about Covid-19. After a number of complaints and settlements, the DOJ published a fact sheet describing Accessibility of COVID-19 Vaccine Websites and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This fact sheet explained the DOJ’s commitment to providing equal access to information, and as a part of the settlements with the private businesses mentioned in the fact sheet, all were required to ensure that their Covid websites were accessible. Related, with the updated Guidance on Web Accessibility and the ADA, all Title II entities (such as colleges) now must have accessible websites.

Treatments

Though research continues on the most effective treatments, advances have been made. In their Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that children over the age of five are now eligible to receive booster shots. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved the use of Evusheld for certain patients, as described in AstraZeneca’s Fact Sheet for Patients, Parents And Caregivers Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of EVUSHELD™ (tixagevimab co-packaged with cilgavimab) for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Resources:

Link to Advisory Committee

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