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The Pandemic and Disability

Lilah's picture


I read "My Life is More 'Disposable' During this Pandemic" by Elliot Kukla for a class I had last year, and since then, I kept trying to think about how this pandemic affects disability in contexts when many people typically aren't thinking about disabled people. For example, when I've read articles, watched the news, or heard friends and family talking about how surges in cases are causing hospitalizations to increase a lot and therefore making it harder for non-covid related patients to receive medical care, I never hear disability come up in that conversation. I've only heard people think about what happens if you break a bone or if you have a heart attack, essentially random medical events that people are only thinking could only happen to non-disbaled people. Disability isn't even an afterthought in a lot of these conversations- It's just not even thought of at all. So many people need constant medical care for many different reasons, and the pandemic has definitely affected the qualitiy of care disabled people have received. And at times when I've brought it up to people, they seemed so shocked and seem to suddenly remember that people with disabilities actually exist and that the pandemic is tremendously more difficult for disabled people. I think something that's been happening is that a lot of non-disabled people during this pandemic have only been thinking about how it will affect them and their close circles, which typically don't include disabled people. I am definitely guilty of doing that at times. However, disabled people need to be prioritized during the pandemic, as it seems like so many people have been left behind and left to fend for themselves. 

A disabled tiktok creator, Imani Barbarin or @crutches_and_spice (highly reccomend followering her), has posted frequently about topics related to disability and the pandemic. She has said multiple times that the pandemic is and will continue to be a "mass disabling event that the United States is not prepared for". She states "this is a pandemic where one quarter to a third of people will have long lasting disabilities". She also quotes an article that's title is "Almost 110,000 Americans died while waiting for a Social Security disability hearing" (CBS News). Governments are clearly not prepared for this and are already failing so many people with disabilities, no matter if they existed prior to the pandemic or were created by the pandemic. I really hope that there will be positive outcomes for disability justice as a result of the pandemic. I think in a lot of cases, things have to get a lot worse before they can get better. Even though things are already extremely bad, pretty much across the board, when it comes to disabled people, things might have to keep getting much worse for it to actually reach governments attention. This unfortunately should not be the case, however, this is sadly the only way my brain can actually fathom a way that there will be positive changes for people with disabilities in the near future.