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Disabled People Don't Want to Say We Told You So About the Pandemic, But...

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When people first became aware of long COVID and its effects, disabled people were already awaiting the inevitable. We knew what this meant; we knew what was coming. We knew that despite our warnings, people would dismiss the long-term impacts COVID could have. We knew that all of the attention and funding would go to those who have become newly disabled due to COVID while the rest of us just stood in their shadow, continuing to shout into the darkness.

So now, two full years since the start of the pandemic, none of us are surprised. Everything we predicted has come to pass. People are blowing off COVID as “just a cold,” the dangers it brings for high-risk individuals are being ignored, and the long-term impact of post-viral illness is being dismissed. The difference now is that there is an influx of newly disabled people who have long COVID and are trying to navigate the same systems that have been oppressing other disabled people for years. The medical ableism, the requirements to qualify for services… this is all new for them.

While all of us who developed our disabilities after previously being relatively healthy remember and empathize with the struggles that come with this transition, it is deeply frustrating to see people complaining about the very things we warned them about as no one was listening to us. Additionally, these systems are a part of life for us — we’re used to the challenges that come with navigating social services, healthcare, medical leave, etc. Because of this, a lot of what this influx of newly disabled people has to say may not resonate with us. Perhaps it’s easy for you to find a doctor who can help you now, but wait until you’re three years in with five new comorbidities and haven’t had a day off from your health in years. Perhaps your newly-developed tachycardia is life-altering now, but eventually, many of us learn to drink a bunch of Gatorade, eat a lot of salt, avoid triggers, and live with it.

The disability community is strong, welcoming, and accepting. We all know that we are the only marginalized group that people can become a part of at any point in their lives, without warning. We were prepared for this. We saw it coming. And we are here to welcome those with long-COVID into our community with open arms, without judgment or condemnation.

Still, to hear those new voices making statements that are either exactly what we have been saying all along or are invalidating of what we actually experience once we have been at this for a while is difficult. This community prides itself on being a welcoming space. None of us are here to say, “I told you so,” but when it comes down to it, we did. We told you this would happen. We’ve been telling you for years. We’re still telling you now. But no one has ever listened to us — not until it’s far too late.

Getty image by WildPixel.

Originally published: March 31, 2022
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