People with disabilities have consistently been erased from many facets of life, including politics. Now, even though these individuals have pre-existing conditions, many are not on the priority list to acquire a vaccine against COVID-19. According to ABC News, “some states…are already vaccinating people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” however, individuals with physical disabilities or non-intellectual or developmental disabilities are not being acknowledged. As well as this, in some states, the wait for people with disabilities to get a vaccine increases each time a new list comes out. Many of these people have stayed indoors and followed every mandate out of heightened fear for their lives, more so than others, yet priority lists have not reflected the gravity of their underlying conditions during this time.
During the entirety of this pandemic, disabled people have fared far worse than others. In both the COVID-19 pandemic and past pandemics, studies show that it has been far harder for people with disabilities to get medical supplies to stay alive during these times than others. As well as this, as reported by the American Psychological Association, people with disabilities “report higher levels of social isolation and loneliness” than others during the pandemic. Nonetheless, people with disabilities are still getting ignored by our government.
As stated on Connecticut’s official state website, the first phase of vaccines in Connecticut prioritized five groups: healthcare personnel, long-term facility residents, medical first responders, individuals 65 and older and residents and staff of select congregate settings. Phase two includes people with underlying medical conditions. It’s the same in other states like New York, which has more categories of eligible people, but people with medical conditions are only introduced in phase two. People with disabilities are categorized under people with underlying medical conditions.
In California, people with disabilities seem to be getting through to their government. Through the hashtag “HighRiskCA,” many have taken to social media platforms to express their frustration with the situation. However, this was short-lived; California is now administering vaccines to people with disabilities on the basis of age. This is not fair to anyone, including people without disabilities, because it shows how little the government cares about this health crisis.
The real reason that disabled people keep getting pushed down is because we have continuously devalued them in society and have become complacent in their oppression. Offensive and insensitive comments, inappropriate interview tactics and ignoring people with disabilities are common forms of people without disabilities trampling over and oppressing those with disabilities, according to the Hearing Health Foundation. Vicitmisation, the unfair treatment and pity that comes after calling out an act of discrimination, is also a common form of disability discrimination. We should be aware of these as we move forward, both as individuals and as a nation with more people with disabilities than we think.
One of the worst parts of the pandemic for disabled people has been the staggering amount of job losses that they have faced. Employers are afraid to hire and retain people with disabilities during the pandemic because they believe that it would cost more to accommodate them during the pandemic. This is not only ableist, but it is a gross abuse of power and discrimination. People with disabilities did not choose to have a disability, and because of the system we live in, they must acquire jobs and capital like the rest of society. Without those opportunities, disabled people will, and have already, faced higher rates of poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has ruined many financial situations, but for disabled people facing a job market with hiring discrimination, the situation is a lot worse.
The good news is that the Biden administration has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make more inclusive outlines concerning prioritizing people with disabilities. The administration worked to release an extremely comprehensive plan to allow for greater access to the vaccines, and Biden himself signed executive orders to make sure his plan followed through. Hopefully, people with disabilities will get the justice they deserve in the healthcare system, but until then, we must stand in solidarity with the people who need us.
Right now, the best way to help is to listen to people with disabilities. Chances are, you know someone who is disabled, and making sure that they are heard is an important factor in their ability to receive justice. Elevating their voices instead of speaking over people with disabilities is another way for people without disabilities to help the cause. Educating oneself by reading articles, catching up on what people with disabilities are saying on social media and becoming more aware of the struggles of living with a disability can help one become more empathetic and able to properly ally with the disabled community. It is imperative to support all people, not just those without disabilities.