DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla., May 11, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — AshBritt, Inc., a national leader in emergency management operations, is working with Autism Speaks and Best Buddies Florida on two separate programs that make COVID-19 vaccination sites more welcoming for people with autism, intellectual, and/or developmental disabilities. This collaboration between AshBritt and each of these organizations is essential in the national conversation about equity for those with disabilities in the vaccination process.
AshBritt first contacted Autism Speaks when it saw an opportunity to make its COVID-19 vaccination sites more accessible to people with autism and related conditions. Autism Speaks was proud to work with AshBritt to provide guidance and best practices on creating an autism-friendly experience at vaccine site locations with the development of the Autism Friendly Vaccine Experience Toolkit. AshBritt provides the educational materials and training courses to site staff while offering information and accommodations to the autistic participants and people who support them. These resources are free and available now through AshBritt, Inc. and autismspeaks.org.
“Family members of individuals who need accommodations were coming to our sites to ask questions, request support, or sometimes just checking out the space in anticipation of a future visit,” said AshBritt CEO Brittany Perkins Castillo. “In working with and learning from these families, the idea for the Autism Friendly Vaccine Experience Tool Kit was born.”
The Vaccine Experience Tool Kit helps vaccination sites create an inclusive experience for people with autism and other related conditions and includes the following tools:
- “Welcoming People with Autism and Related Conditions to COVID-19 Vaccination Sites” Guide – This four-step standard operations procedure guide allows vaccination sites to assess for existing accommodations as well as possible adjustments to be made to create a more inclusive experience.
- “4 Things You Can Do for People with Autism and Related Conditions” Tip Sheet – Four things vaccination sites can do now to make the vaccination experience more accessible and inclusive.
- “Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine” Guide – An informative guide available to individuals and families to help them navigate the vaccination experience more comfortably.
- “Individual/Family Supports Card” – This helpful visual aid can be provided to individuals or families at registration or as a download pre-arrival to support them in identifying their specific support needs at the vaccination site.
In addition, team members at AshBritt IEM Health-operated vaccination centers are participating in the Autism Speaks Autism Friendly Designation online training program.
In many instances, a familiar face is a critical component to increasing vaccine access, so AshBritt also contacted Best Buddies Florida to create the Buddy Pass Program, which offers a known support system for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Individuals who register online for a free Buddy Pass can use it at an AshBritt IEM Health vaccination center, where a trained staff member guides them and any support person through the vaccination process, answers questions, and provides extra accommodations if needed.
“These programs strive to support individuals with autism, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities who have sensitivity to sounds and/or crowds, use a device to communicate, or need a support person alongside them. Our goal in creating both of these programs is to increase accessibility and equity at vaccination centers, and provide information for those getting the vaccine and to those administering it. The only way we will overcome COVID together is if we work to ensure that everyone feels supported in this process,” said Perkins Castillo.
About the organizations
AshBritt is a national turnkey rapid-response emergency management, logistics, and disaster response company, now in its 28th year. AshBritt and its partner IEM Health are operating COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and treatment sites in partnership with state emergency management agencies in Virginia, Florida, and Texas.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. To find resources, join an event or make a donation, go to www.autismspeaks.org. Learn more by following @autismspeaks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).