Last week, I had a large response to my post “Are disabled people missing out when it comes to the COVID vaccine?” with many people expressing concerns about how the wider disabled community have been treated during the COVID outbreak and subsequent lockdowns.
So I decided to ask some friends who have 1st hand knowledge of this and find out what they thought…..
Unfortunately, their views weren’t always particularly upbeat….
My friend has a teenage daughter who has Down’s Syndrome and I asked him for his opinion on how the lockdowns had affected her. (Name changed for Privacy reasons)
“Makes me wonder who really has the learning disability”
“As an adult with Down’s Syndrome who is on the Extremely Clinically Vulnerable list, Megan has been lucky enough to have received her first vaccination, but she remains extremely worried and stressed because she’s shielding and now also coping with Type 1 diabetes.”
“She is unable to see her friends and family as normal or to go to college and she struggles to fully understand why this is the case. Despite her learning disabilities, she hears and digests the news reports and wonders why people are so selfish that they can’t wear a mask and follow the rules for everyone’s benefit“
“When I hear of people refusing vaccination I just think of her, who went and sat there in the vaccination centre and had her jab because she ‘wants Covid to be over’”
“It makes me wonder who really has the learning disability? It’s been mentioned that people with severe and profound learning disability can be prioritised by their GP. Really? – I don’t think so when we’re asking severely disabled people or their already overwhelmed families to chase their vaccines rather than the other way around?“
“Most people with a disability are on some sort of register, either with their GP, DWP, social services etc. with detailed information on a thousand forms and assessments they’ve had to complete for any benefits yet when their life is in danger, they’re given even more hoops to jump through”
What about social media….?
Then I turned to social media and I found this on Twitter from the disability charity Scope…
James Taylor, Director of Strategy said:
“Once again during this pandemic, the Prime Minister gave a speech where he did not explicitly address the impact for disabled people”
“Two thirds of all those who’ve died from coronavirus were disabled. This harrowing data shows just why there is an urgent need for the government to prioritise disabled people”
“Many disabled people have been shielding for almost a year now and are still struggling to get basics such as food and social care“
“The government must deliver an emergency support package to protect disabled people’s health and finances.”
So Scope were calling for emergency relief; how did others feel?
Again I turned to Twitter, I’ve found comments which mirror Scope’s statement such as…
“Ever since the news came out last week that a majority of Covid deaths in the UK are disabled people, I’ve been able to think of little else. Despite making up less than 15% of the population, disabled people make up 60% of the UK’s Covid deaths” (@lnadarkwood)
“A marathon running 60 year old is being invited for their vaccine whilst a 30 year old bedbound with M.E. is having to beg and chase their GP for a jab. The purpose of the vaccine priority list is to protect those who most need it. It is currently failing”
“Breaking news: All adults with a learning disability will be offered a Covid vaccine in priority list u-turn” – This is a huge relief for families, but should never have been put through this. Government must now u-turn on other excluded disabilities, like moderate asthma and M.E.” (@DrFrancesRyan)
Or signs of exhaustion and stress like these….
“‘You should complain about that’. ‘You should report them‘. But why? I am exhausted from complaining, from ranting on Twitter, from fighting for scraps of accessibility.”
“I truly can’t be bothered with people telling me that maybe disabled/vulnerable people should just stay at home in response to me questioning why many of us have not had the vaccine. I love to be reminded that people don’t care about my life” (@shonalouiseblog)
And I also found thoughts on how the non disabled majority see disabled people…..?
“When we become reduced to our disabilities, others very quickly forget that there are people involved here. We are no longer seen as whole, living, breathing human beings.” (@serenebutterfly)
“If the rest of society demanded change & equality instead of a new iPhone there’d be change & equality” (@Danwhite1972)
But there is also room to hope….
We heard two days ago, that the government had changed its recommendation to say that people with learning difficulties or severe mental illness could have their Corona vaccination and as of today, more than 19 million people have had the 1st dose of the vaccine.
The numbers of people working from home during these lockdowns has finally shown employers that the people who have been calling for this for years, were actually right and that those type of ‘reasonable adjustments‘ for disabled people maybe aren’t as hard to implement as they all once thought.
We all hope that we will finally emerge from these dreadful times as better, more rounded and more empathetic individuals, whether disabled or otherwise, but there is, as always, so much more to do.
So let’s try and become more aware and never forget that we are all worthy of fair play and a decent life, surely if COVID hasn’t taught us that, what could……?