Teresa Moore.

When the Administration for Community Living last fall continued federal funding through 2026 for the Self-Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center (SARTAC), the moment was bittersweet for longtime self-advocate and SARTAC Director Teresa Moore. 

While heartened by the federal support, Moore also knew it came in response to the huge challenges that people with disabilities have faced since the pandemic began two years ago. 

“We were really excited to be renewed for another five years,” said Moore, who serves on the Institute’s Self-Advocate Advisory Committee. “With COVID-19, people with disabilities have had some big challenges, and as a self-advocacy organization, we had big challenges in moving our outreach and advocacy online. Using regular Zoom meetings and creating plain-language materials helped connect individuals and their families with each other and with COVID-19 information that they really need.”

 Through her own bout with COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic, Moore advocated for the rights of patients with disabilities in decision-making about vaccination and treatment priorities. She has also counseled other people with disabilities about talking with their support staff about the importance of vaccinations. 

“I told my own staff they have to be vaccinated to work with me, because I tend to get everything that they walk through my door with – colds, the flu, everything,” she said. “So, through SARTAC, we are working with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities to create some public service announcements and other educational outreach about direct support professionals’ comfort with the COVID-19 vaccines.” 

For people with disabilities who may be reluctant to press the vaccine issue out of fear of losing staff members in a high-turnover field, Moore encourages them to talk to the physician that best knows how COVID-19 would affect them given their specific disability, and then explain to their support team how the virus could change, or even end, their lives.  

“It’s about all of us being able to have the lives we want,” she said. “I was really ill with Covid and it has taken a long time to get better, so I want people to know they have the right to say, ‘I’d really like you to consider getting the vaccine. It’s not political, it’s just the best thing you can do to keep us working together.’”