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Reflection on the Intersection of “My Life Is More ‘Disposable’ During This Pandemic," "I’m disabled and need a ventilator to live. Am I expendable during this pandemic?" and 10 Principles of Disability Justice

lizzieryann's picture

I found “My Life Is More ‘Disposable’ During This Pandemic” and "I’m disabled and need a ventilator to live. Am I expendable during this pandemic?" to be very powerful pieces.  These two works should be read by everyone, ESPECIALLY health care workers. History provides an unfortunate abundance of examples of stigma and discrimination directed towards members of the disability  community. During a pandemic where there are limited life-saving resources, like ventilators, these stigmas are bound to play a role in how protocols are constructed to decide who gets to stay alive or die. It’s deeply disturbing to observe how misunderstood and undervalued the disability community is. After reading both of these pieces, I found myself wondering what would happen if everyone read and understood how to apply the principles of disability justice. For example, by recognizing the wholeness of each member of the disability community, health care workers can understand that as Kukla mentioned through describing the different facets of his wheelchair using friend’s identity, people live at the intersection of multiple identities. Yet, members of communities that are consistently undervalued (ex. Elderly community, marginalized groups, disability community) are often only acknowledged for their belonging to one of the many groups they belong to in life. Both Kukla and Wong, also brought up the belief that disabled individuals have a poor quality of life- a misconception that many abled body people adopt as truth. This lead me to wonder about the potential impact of the healthcare system applying “leadership of the most impacted”. That is, what would happen if more disabled individuals went into healthcare? Whether that means disabled individuals becoming physicians or joining the boards of hospitals in order to help advise for training of physicians or policy changes. As a member of the disability community and an aspiring physician, I hope to be able to act as a leader dispelling false narratives about the disability community. I sometimes do worry about becoming a physician in the sense that it;s a profession where historically everyone is expected to be able-bodied and of optimal health. Disability does not equate inability and perhaps this truth needs to first be conveyed to med school admissions committees. 


Justin's picture

Thank you for sharing this! At a time of crisis, the pandemic should have forefronted those most at risk, yet it had the opposite effect and instead increased health disparities among the disabled community and other minorities. In “My Life Is More ‘Disposable’ During This Pandemic,” Kukla explains how messages about the pandemic have emphasized that COVID-19 is only a high risk for people who are elederly or have chronic illnesses. While this may seem reassuring for non-disabled people, Kukla notes that it is deeply disturbing that the term “only” is used to describe disabled and elderly people, as if their lives are valued less than others. Instead of taking collective action to protect people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, policy has instead focused on healthy young Americans throughout the entirety of the pandemic.

A lot of these problems come from the American healthcare and medical education systems. I agree that leadership of those most impacted is essential to combat these issues, although I think that ultimately implementing all ten principles of disability justice are needed to transform the American medical system. Incorporating anti-capitalistic politic is particularly relevant to the American healthcare system. In a country where many cannot afford to live due to the privatization of medical insurance, those with disabilities suffer most. It is harmful for all low-income Americans to access medical treatment, let alone a person with diabetes who depends on regular insulin injections to survive. Including disability justice in medical admissions, education, and practice is imperative to transform our healthcare system to serve all Americans.