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Coping with COVID-19: Coronavirus & Disability

Coronavirus and disability aren’t two words that we’d ever thought of in relation to one another. Until recently, most people had never heard of Coronavirus. Things have been changing at alarming speeds, we’re living in very strange times. The new normal keeps altering day by day. Even trying to set up a routine seems ridiculous. Hours and days bleed into one another as you circle the same rooms in your house. If you’re privileged enough to have a home, not everyone is. unfortunately. A harsh light has been shed on the lives disabled people have been forced to live.

Coronavirus, Disability & Social Isolation

Social isolation isn’t new…

Globally, we’ve seen media outlets reporting on the Coronavirus (COVID-19). There are already enough opinions disguised as facts out there, so we will not get into what Coronavirus is or is not. We’re not experts, and you probably aren’t, either. The world does not need any more of that. But we will say that the hysteria that has been created around this virus is astounding.

Amidst the chaos and the hurriedly written blogs and articles, there is calm. A number of disabled people online, specifically Twitter, have expressed a calmness around the situation. Social distancing, isolation and working from home are nothing new to the disability community. Owing to varying disabilities and chronic illnesses, this is a life that is familiar to many. However, these many are usually ignored by the general populace. That is the way of the world, after all. Disability does not concern you, until it concerns YOU. The inaccessibility of spaces, public and private, is not new to us. Many disabled people have had to socially isolate long before now. There is no space at the clubs, pubs, or even homes of friends and families. The familiarity of feeling unwelcomed is something commonplace to us, but everyone else is nonplussed. 

Yes, this is unfair. And should not happen to anyone. But nobody listens to disabled people. People that have not only felt, but gotten used to, this messed up reality. Perhaps things will change for the better, but history has usually shown us otherwise.

The baby girls video chatting about the soaring costs of goods.

Coronavirus & Wallet Gouging Cleanliness

This pandemonium has led to the sky-rocketing prices of medical masks, wipes, sanitisers and many other products. The baby girls were on the phone together a few days ago, when we were discussing the ridiculous prices of sanitising wipes. Now, capitalism really and truly is a cur, because wipes being sold on eBay for £991 and some change is ludicrous. We know we live in an age of ‘pics or it didn’t happen’, so there’s the screenshot with the ridiculous price tag. For comparison, the same wipes were bought for under £10 last year.

The stats show that disabled people are more likely to be poorer than the average person. Now disability and Coronavirus has people in the UK wondering how anyone is supposed to live on £94 per week. This is something that has been expected of disabled people for years now. Welcome aboard, there are no seats left, so you will have to stand…

While there have been some glimmers of hope of people rallying around one another. There have been more reports of price gouging, hoarding and other awful things. During times of pandemics and great fear, it brings out the worst in people. The hoarding of food and necessary cleaning products and general apathy to those that are not you and yours. It is especially now that we need to think about the collective and not just ourselves. If only a select few are able to keep clean, fed and watered this pandemic will only get worse.

Disability IS Disposability

Don’t worry about it. It will only affect the elderly, disabled, chronically ill and otherwise immunocompromised.

We have all seen the headlines and articles that are supposed to reassure everyone else that it is only the ‘weak and the lame’ that will be taken by Coronavirus. This is awful on the face of it. A beautifully written article on the HuffPost recently touched on this very topic. Disabled people are often, explicitly or implicitly, reminded of our disposability. We are expendable. If there is ever a choice that needs to be made, we’re the first ones out. Always. Coronavirus has just made that clearer than usual.

The pandemic is putting a strain on healthcare systems around the world. In the UK, NHS doctors will be given guidelines on who gets to live. In this scenario, the disabled and chronically ill never fare well. Our mere existence is seen as draining and burdensome. Any consideration given to save our lives would be viewed as ‘special treatment’. The harsh reality is that it is becoming more evident.

We do not want to die. We have lives to live, stories to tell, and legacies we want to leave behind. The ever wonderful Alice Wong recently said,

Disabled people know what it means to be vulnerable and interdependent. We are modern-day oracles. It’s time people listened to us. 

We’re not only disabled, but also Black women. We are used to nobody listening. However, this lack of care and inability to hear us will ultimately cost more lives. Time and again, hindsight has shown that we were right all along. Being the people that are first to be cast aside, we know a thing or two. Like the Triple Cripples duo, Alice, and so many others have said before: LISTEN TO US.

Header: Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

2 Comments

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