- VERA KUBENZ
After two years of the pandemic, there is an understandable desire to “return to normal”. People with disabilities, having been particularly affected by the pandemic, described the removal of all COVID rules as a “Kick in the teeth”.
In the UK, between January and November 2020, people with disabilities were up to three times more likely to die of COVID. Social services were disturbed and in some cases reversed. Inaccessible health briefings meant that many people were unable to obtain adequate information at crucial times.
PICTURE: Niq Steele/iStockphoto.
The exclusion of persons with disabilities during an international emergency is often the rule rather than the exception. People with disabilities are more likely to To be abandoned during natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, and fleeing war and conflict. They also face greater barriers to communicating about emergencies. During the pandemic, people with disabilities have experienced similar marginalization and exclusion worldwide.
There is little evidence of improvements for people with disabilities following major emergencies, as governments often have a misunderstanding disability-specific needs. The recovery from the COVID pandemic is an opportunity to change that. Here are five things that need to happen for an inclusive post-COVID world to become a reality.
“There is little evidence of improvements for people with disabilities following major emergencies, as governments often have a poor understanding of the specific needs of people with disabilities. Recovery from the COVID pandemic is an opportunity to change that .”
1. Working with people with disabilities
The global motto for disability rights is “nothing about us without us” – meaning that decisions about policies affecting people with disabilities should not be made without their input. It is crucial that governments work with people with disabilities and learn from their experiences when developing policies.
Disability-led organizations played an important role during the shutdowns by helping people with disabilities where there was no government support. They also played a leading role in recording the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities.
Conversations about disability are still too often dominated by charities, which are usually run by non-disabled people and can perpetuate ideas about disability as ‘tragic’. Instead, the government should listen to disabled voices and work directly with them to ensure their needs and concerns are addressed.
2. Fight against poverty
More than a quarter of families with a disabled member are in poverty. This situation is expected to worsen during the current cost of living crisis, as benefits are not increasing at the same rate as inflation and are now at historically low levels.
People with disabilities already face additional costs due to their disability, including higher energy bills. This “disability awardwill become unmanageable for many. It is important that people with disabilities, whether working or not, receive adequate financial support.
This should also include funding for the fight “digital poverty” – the inability to fully interact with the digital world, either due to lack of internet access, skills or finances. This is particularly acute for people with disabilities, who may face higher costs for accessible technology. The pandemic has shown how important technology is for remote work and social activities – ensuring everyone can fully participate is a critical part of pandemic recovery.
3. Basic protective measures
As mask requirements and social distancing rules disappear, clinically vulnerable people are still more at risk of contracting severe COVID. For example, people with learning disabilities are five times more likely to be hospitalized and eight times more likely to die from COVID than the average person.
The return of basic protective measures could reduce this risk. The wearing of the mask was turned out to be very effective to stop the spread of COVID. Requiring masks in indoor public spaces like stores or entertainment venues is a small sacrifice that could make a difference for many who are otherwise stuck at home.
Another important measure is supporting people to self-isolate when sick with COVID. The current rules push people to go to work sick. The two Trades Union Congresswhich represents 48 trade unions, and the human resources management association Chartered Institute for Staff Development called for a more efficient sickness benefit system. These basic protective measures will help everyone, but especially people with disabilities, to move safely back to normalcy.
4. Access to tests
The end of free testing presents another worry for many clinically vulnerable people, especially people with disabilities and older people in nursing homes, who are no longer eligible for free testing. the Alzheimer Society estimates that some care home visitors now face costs of up to £73 a month for daily lateral flow tests.
Retirement homes have been hit hard by the pandemic and visitor bans meant there was little accountability for shortcomings in the system. A international survey suggests that human rights abuses have taken place in many countries, including the UK. Chronic understaffing and what the report calls a “lack of humanity” are some of the factors that have led to people dying needlessly from neglect, thirst and hunger.
Allowing visitors while keeping residents safe is crucial, but not possible without continued access to free testing.
5. Long COVID Support and Research Funding
The long COVID, the persistence of severe symptoms that can last months after the initial infection, is believed to affect 1.5 million people in the UK. However, little is currently known about its effects. Without action, the long COVID has the potential to create a new generation of people with disabilities, with many requiring long-term treatment.
This treatment can be difficult to access. Management of other chronic energy-limiting conditions, such as ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome) and fibromyalgia, is often insufficient. The stigma and misunderstanding of disability means that people with chronic conditions face many obstacles to access support.
The Trades Union Congress has called for the long COVID to be recognized as a handicap in the equality act 2010. This would provide greater legal protection by making it illegal to discriminate against people with long-term COVID and allowing them access to workplace adjustments.
There is an urgent need to provide support and funding for long-COVID research to address long-term health and health issues. economic risks posed by this condition.
Vera Kubenz is Research Fellow – GCRF Network+ “Disability Under Siege” at the University of Birmingham. This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.