By Michael Rock:
As the United States economy starts to reopening from the COVID-19 lockdown, providers of services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities have often joined in, creating innovative new ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on their premises.
One such provider, Gompers of Phoenix, Arizona, will begin a phased reopening of its non-in-home services on September 14, months after the pandemic forced them to be suspended in March. Social distancing precautions will be in place.
Libertyville, Illinois’, Lambs Farm, which provides residential and vocational opportunities for people with disabilities in a farm setting, has begun to re-allow visitors to come see their numerous animals with reservations to prevent overcrowding. Though the residents of the farm often help work it, pandemic regulations do not allow it at this time.
In California, school reopenings will allow in-person learning with cohorts of up to fourteen students per class. Students with disabilities will be prioritized due to the fact that many cannot receive adequate instruction virtually.
Meanwhile, the Just-a-Buck dollar stores of Parma and South Euclid, Ohio, reopened. These stores, run by the local nonprofit Solutions at Work (SAW), provide vocational training for people with developmental disabilities.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced that residents of group homes, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes will once again allow visitors.
While in New Jersey, top state officials announced that 26 Sheltered Workshop programs, which provide vocational training to people with developmental disabilities, will receive full funding to reopen.
As the United States begins to get through the first wave of the coronavirus and these key services start to reopen, surely more will follow suit. However, they must be prepared for the additional economic risks of a second wave.
Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.