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Lighthouse Guild Calls for States to Expand Eligibility and Access

‘Blindness needs to be included among those underlying conditions.’

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(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK — Who should be next in line to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States? In some states, people with underlying conditions are now eligible to receive the vaccine based on CDC guidelines. “Blindness needs to be included among those underlying conditions,” says Dr. Calvin W. Roberts, president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild. “We urge states across the country to include blindness on the list of underlying conditions that makes a person eligible to receive the vaccine now.”

There are over 1 million people in the United States who are legally blind and are facing particular overwhelming obstacles due to the pandemic.

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“Isolation has been a challenge for everyone, and in many ways even more so for those who are blind. We all want to be able to navigate our neighborhoods, but the signs and signals that sighted people use to move about in this changed world are not available to people who are blind,” Dr. Roberts, who is an ophthalmologist, points out.

Maintaining social distance can be a challenge since people who are blind often use touch to navigate the world. Furthermore, when out in the community or on public transportation, people who are blind are not always able to identify if those around them are wearing masks, making them more vulnerable. Until there is a sufficient supply of vaccine, there will continue to be difficult decisions about who receives it. This is understandable. However, in looking at who is significantly at risk for exposure to COVID-19, people who are blind must be included.

The accessibility of vaccination sites is also a major consideration for people who are blind. Getting to and from these sites and navigating large arenas that have been converted into vaccination sites are among major concerns. To add to that, there is complexity to the scheduling process which has been challenging for many, especially people who are blind. Websites that schedule vaccine appointments should use accessible technology. It would be tragic if once eligible for the vaccine, a person who is blind is prevented from getting the vaccine because of inaccessible websites and vaccination centers.

“We need to make sure that the over 1 million people in our country who are legally blind are not left out in the cold as our vaccination program moves forward,” says Dr. Roberts.

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