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Disabled People Are Not Acceptable Collateral Damage in a Pandemic

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This pandemic was never going to be easy and everyone has been impacted in one way or another, but it feels as though disabled people have largely been forgotten throughout this last year. This week, both the U.K. government and the Scottish government have been announcing their “road plans” for re-opening things again, and while having some hope given to people is always a good thing, it’s hard to ignore the data SAGE have given showing that the quick reopening next month is set to cause another wave of deaths potentially in the tens of thousands. How can we be OK with this?

The data so far suggests that disabled people have made up 60% of COVID-19-related deaths so far. That means that an accelerated re-opening is going to impact the vulnerable and disabled community the hardest. Most disabled people have had to go into shielding for half of this pandemic (and even for the brief few months of shielding being relaxed, many of us still followed the same guidelines because the risk was too high). But while the government did have some information going out, and local councils contacting shielders, many of us feel as though we have been left behind.

At the beginning of the year, we were informed shielding guidelines would be back in place, but while the Scottish government has set out their roadmap, there’s been no official update yet as to when those who are shielding can stop, or if things change when we’ve received our second vaccine. I have no idea when I’ll be allowed to go back to work, hug my parents or even go into a supermarket.

There has also been a huge toll mentally as we’ve seen family and friends suggest that the virus “only affects old and vulnerable people,” or that everyone should go back to normal and we should just stay inside if we’re worried until things calm down. I can’t express in words how hurtful it is to see people you love so dismissive of your health and your life. No one wants this, but that doesn’t mean disabled people can just be cast aside to let everyone else get on with their lives. Our lives are not worth less because we have a higher risk of catching and being severely ill from a virus or we’re more likely to die from it.

People with learning disabilities have had DNRs imposed on them. Our elderly have been sent back to care homes after positive COVID-19 tests. Health care workers have been given inadequate PPE to care for all these people. It says a lot about our society and those in power over us when the most vulnerable are being treated like this. It is not acceptable; it can’t be acceptable. Disabled people are not your collateral damage.

Getty image by Wildpixel.

Originally published: February 26, 2021
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