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Why I Feel Unseen as a Person With a Disability During the Pandemic

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My house has become a prison of sorts. I haven’t left it in over four months and there is still no end in sight. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused my life to grind to halt and stripped me of my independence. I cannot see my newborn nephew, hug my sister, or visit my best friends in California, Boston and Charlottesville. My summers used to be filled with movie theaters, restaurants and travel, but not anymore. If I were to do all these things, my life would be at great risk. I don’t have the luxury to treat the pandemic as a hoax because it could cost me my life.

It can be truly terrifying living in the midst of a pandemic with chronic illness, especially when it is not being taken seriously. I have a constant feeling of frustration knowing the pandemic could be brought to its knees if people would wear masks. This is the same situation for everyone who has a compromised immune system due to chronic illness. Thousands of homes across the United States have become literal prisons. The most painful aspect of this experience is so many people don’t seem to care. People complain about masks infringing on their rights when by doing so they strip me and people like me of our rights to freedom and life. My peers choose shallow parties over the lives of the vulnerable. Our leaders ignore sound science and maliciously spread lies to further their own political agenda.

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The refusal to take the pandemic seriously is a refusal to protect vulnerable members of society. It is a refusal to love and care for physically and mentally disabled people. By forsaking those at risk, we forsake our humanity and devolve into animals.  Survival of the fittest belongs in the jungle — not the streets of the United States.

I don’t want to feel ignored and invisible, I want to be valued and seen.  So does every person with a disability. By not social distancing, wearing masks, or staying home you are silently saying my life has less value and remains unseen.  A society is ultimately judged on its treatment of its most vulnerable members. On its current path, American society will be harshly judged by future generations. It doesn’t have to continue like this. We can change course and choose to see and love those deeply affected by COVID. The simple act of wearing a mask shows you care for chronically ill and disabled people. It shows that you care about me.

Getty image by Fizkes.

Originally published: August 24, 2020
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