AUSTIN, Texas - Back in January, Sharon Cohan hit the ground running in helping the elderly and vulnerable find COVID-19 vaccine appointments. During that phase, she was contacted by a woman who especially needed her help.
"She was not a senior, and she said she was blind and that she had some special requests," said Cohan.
Cohan then realized, there were more people like this woman who needed some help getting vaccinated. "After about the 12th or 13th person I realized that everyone seemed to be centered around this Lighthouse community," she said.
Austin Lighthouse helps serve the needs of the visually impaired. Friday, they received 300 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be given to employees, members, and their families. Organizers said members of another center were also in attendance.
They all had similar stories, stories of figuratively and literally being in the dark during the pandemic. They were having trouble accessing resources, accessing vaccines, they couldn’t use the websites," said Cohan.
Organizers said the biggest issue has been accessibility for this community.
"If they want to register to get a vaccine, some of those complex interactions are not accessible through the screen reading technology that they use," said Sharron Rush, executive director of knowbility.org.
The event happened in Austin City Council member Vanessa Fuentes' district...a district she said was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. "As a policymaker, I continue to be disappointed that our system wasn't set up in a way that was user-friendly for those who are visually impaired," she said.
"I can't believe this population hasn’t already been vaccinated. They can’t be safe because they can’t see if someone next to them is masked and some of them are essential workers," said Cohan.
Cohan believes it will take a community effort to beat COVID-19, and she is proud to play a role in saving lives. "Other than having children, this might be one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of. I’ve been on the verge of tears for the past few hours," she said at Friday’s pop-up clinic.
Walgreens administered the shots and the second round of doses will be coming in the next three weeks.
The organizers did not identify one particular website that had trouble. However, they say they have heard complaints about accessibility from multiple people, referencing multiple websites. FOX 7 reached out to Austin Public Health about accessibility and received this statement:
"APH takes the accessibility of our system very seriously. Prior to launch, the system was tested for compliance with City of Austin ADA Office. If someone has concerns with the accessibility of the system or sees areas for improvement, we invite them to reach out to Austin Public Health so that we can look at making those improvements."