Recently Launched CDC COVID-19 Resources now Available for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Wes Quattrone, MA; Stephen Brown, MS; Molly Lynch, MPH; and Jenna Frkovich, MPH, RTI International

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have faced new and unique challenges since the onset of COVID-19. People with IDD have experienced higher rates of hospitalization and mortality from COVID, as well as reduced access to community services, higher rates of comorbidities, and increased barriers for obtaining proper healthcare. These risks were exacerbated by communication impediments that can make understanding and acting upon public health guidance more challenging.

As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently funded the creation of a COVID-19 toolkit that provided resources with clear explanations of protective behaviors, such as how to get a COVID-19 vaccine; how and when to wear a mask and social distance, how to get a COVID-19 test, and how to practice good hand hygiene. Developed by RTI International and their partner, CommunicateHealth, the toolkit consists of plain language public health communication materials in both English and Spanish, such as videos, posters, social stories, and interactive activities.

To develop the toolkit, the CDC hosted multiple discussions with adults with IDD and their caregivers, including both English- and Spanish-speakers, to test the materials and provide feedback at several points along the resource development process.

“We were honored to work closely with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families to develop materials that deliver important information about COVID-19 in a relevant and useful way,” said RTI project director Molly Lynch. “Understanding the knowledge gaps and barriers among these high-risk populations for certain health behaviors is essential to communicate effectively with these groups.”

This work was acknowledged by the Center for Plain Language for producing clear, concise, and engaging content for an interactive social story related to COVID-19 and received the top honor granted by the 2022 ClearMark Awards, the Grand ClearMark. The toolkit also won in the short brochure category. Entries were evaluated on how quickly and easily the audience could:

  • Find what they need
  • Understand what they find
  • Act on that understanding

The Center for Plain Language is a nonprofit organization that helps government agencies and organizations improve their written communications across audiences and formats. The ClearMark awards recognize plain language communications from government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private companies in North America. The full list of 2022 ClearMark award winners is available here.

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