The needs of people with disabilities during this public health response

A bridge in the middle of a forest

DRO Advocacy Continues During COVID-19 Public Health Response

Continuing to provide services

Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the COVID-19 public health crisis that is rapidly unfolding here in Oregon and across the world. We know that natural disasters and emergencies can be even worse for people with disabilities.

While we all work to change our lives to slow the spread of this virus, DRO remains focused on promoting and defending the rights of people with disabilities.

Contact Us for Help

We know that DRO’s staff must be healthy and safe if we’re going to continue our advocacy. That is why DRO has closed its physical office and asked as many of our staff as possible to work from home.

While our office is closed, our intake phone lines and staff phone lines will remain open during business hours. You can request help in two ways:

Call Us

Call us at 503-243-2081 or 1-800-452-1694 between 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.  or 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Write Us a Letter

You can still write to us, but there may be a slight delay for written correspondence via mail. Our address is:

Disability Rights Oregon
511 SW 10th Avenue, Suite 200
Portland, Oregon 97205

Monitoring the state’s response, pressing for more

We will continue to closely monitor the state’s response and work with public officials to ensure the rights and needs of people with disabilities are at the forefront of the public health response. We know that people with medical conditions are at higher risk, this includes many people with disabilities and older adults.

Transparency in how the state is responding to COVID-19 will be important, and we are closely monitoring what is being done. Here is some of what DRO has been working on:

  • Access to Tests: We’re working with our sister Protection & Advocacy organizations across the country to investigate the response to the virus of three federal agencies – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration. We have received reports that people with disabilities are being denied or having tests delayed due to the lack of availability of tests to respond to the demand.
  • People with Physical Disabilities & Older Adults: We requested a briefing from Aging and People with Disabilities (APD) on its planning and response specific to the needs of people with disabilities and older adults, including those in congregate or institutional settings. APD provides long-term care to about 35,000 low income older adults and Oregonians with physical disabilities. This includes about 19,000 people who receive services in their own homes.
  • People Held in Jails: We asked the sheriffs’ association to take a series of steps to protect the health of people being held in county jails across the state.
  • Closure of Trial Courts to Residential Eviction Cases: We asked the Chief Justice to close the Oregon court system to actions to evict tenants from housing. (Oregonian article)

The Necessity of Social Isolation

Public health experts at the CDC continue to recommend that you take steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. This begins with:

Stay informed by visiting the Oregon Public Health Division’s website or the CDC’s website on COVID-19.

Managing Stress & Anxiety

The Director-General of the World Health Organization said that an escalation in testing, isolation, and contact tracing is “the backbone of the response” to COVID-19. While this is necessary for slowing the spread of COVID-19, terms like “isolation,” “quarantine,” “pandemic,” and “virus” can create and fear and anxiety for many in the disability rights movement.

Though these measures are necessary to slow the virus, we want to remind you that coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. Fight back against isolation by finding creative ways to stay connected with your friends and family that do not involve in-person interactions. Please reach out to a mental health professional if you ever feel stress and anxiety is becoming too much.

Pulling together as a community is the best way to get through this.

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