A Bad Time to be Disabled.

Elderly person in a wheelchair being pushed by a carer.

If I’m being brutally honest, there probably isn’t a good time to be disabled. The way in which disabled people have been treated has been abysmal throughout history, only really showing any meaningful improvements in recent decades. However, the pandemic has highlighted the ableist views and practices of the majority of the able-bodied population, and exacerbated the tensions between disabled and non-disabled people.

For starters, 60% of those who died from COVID-19 were disabled. Then we have the repeated instances of trying to apply Do Not Resuscitate orders to anyone with a learning disability without their consent. When lists of people clinically vulnerable to the respiratory virus were compiled, thousands of disabled people including myself were missed despite meeting the ever-changing criteria, making it far more difficult for us to get shopping delivered, work from home, or even obtain a vaccination once that became available. While politicians were pushing the false narrative that only vulnerable (and therefore expendable, apparently) people would die, vulnerable people were being denied the protection that could keep them alive.

Unfortunately, the ableism pandemic didn’t stop with politicians and NHS administrators, but infiltrated every aspect of the population. Social media was flooded with people refusing to wash their hands, socially distance, or wear a mask because it inconvenienced them; why should they make themselves mildly uncomfortable to protect the population they had already been told were expendable? The narrative that disabled people should just stay at home was pushed, and people were surprised to learn that some disabled people have jobs that couldn’t be done remotely, either due to the nature of the work or their doctor’s inability to tick a box. One Twitter user even suggested that the carers we all have (I guess mine got lost in the post) should shelter with us, because of course they wouldn’t have lives of their own to attend to.

Disabled people have of course spoken out against the abuse we have received as a result of the pandemic, with plenty of news articles being published alongside the outpouring on social media. The outcry has risen to a crescendo as 19th July approaches, the day when the government is still insisting that what few restrictions are still in place in England will be lifted (even if some businesses and services are still encouraging masks and social-distancing on their own authority). This can only have one result; unnecessary deaths, most of them being disabled people.

The decision to lift the lockdown has been lambasted by clinicians and epidemiologists as cases of the delta variant surge through the population. A good chunk of the population aren’t even fully vaccinated yet, and won’t be for several weeks. My fury as both a scientist and a disabled person came to a head when vulnerable people were told to just stay home and avoid the rest of society, despite making no provision for even those who have been permitted to shield to continue.

The choice to remove restrictions is irrefutable proof that money is worth more than lives to the people running the country, and that some lives are valued more than others. There will be an unnecessary loss of life, let alone a perfectly avoidable increase in chronic pain patients who end up with long-COVID, all to save the economy. The economy can be revived; dead people can’t. Frankly this decision is nothing short of murder.

In short, I don’t care what the government says, if you care about anyone other than yourself; wear a @%$&ing mask.

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