Stop Killing Disabled People

“Going out in public so often takes courage. How many of us find that we can’t dredge up the strength to do it day after day, week after week, year after year, a lifetime of rejection and revulsion? It is not only physical limitations that restrict us to our homes and those whom we know. It is the knowledge that each entry into the public world will be dominated by stares, by condescension, by pity and by hostility.” – Jenny Morris, Pride Against Prejudice.

Oftentimes, it is far too easy for non-disabled people to fall under the illusion that society is not an ableist place. It is far too easy for them to assume that disabled people are safe in the supposedly progressive world of 2021. However, the community has recently been provided with more than one example of why that is just not true, which it feels important to unpack here. There is still so much work to be done — by everyone.

Firstly, we need to talk about a recent article from The Guardian. This revealed that people with learning disabilities are routinely being given Do Not Resuscitate notices, should they become unwell with COVID-19. I mean, what kind of dystopia are we living in here? Worse still, this group is not typically considered to be a high priority for vaccination, despite growing evidence that they are more likely to die or face serious illness than the general population. If this doesn’t make you want to cry, then I don’t want to be associated with you anymore and I’m not going to apologise for that.

In situations like this, maybe it would be more comfortable to pretend that it isn’t happening. However, Jo Whiley was offered a vaccination before her sister, Frances. If you have been paying any attention to the news lately, then you’re probably already aware, but she has learning disabilities and diabetes. Heartbreakingly, she has also now tested positive for Coronavirus, after an outbreak at her residential care home. There are truly no words to describe the range of emotions that I’m feeling right now. It is just so disheartening to know that there is still this much left to fight for, even on the most basic level. Putting everything together, the message is clear: that the lives of disabled people are deemed to have less value than everyone else’s. That our quality of life is so minimal, we are not worth saving. Whilst I don’t have a learning disability myself, make no mistake: this is a narrative that impacts the lives of disabled people as a whole. It is something that everyone needs to work towards dismantling.

So, what can we do in situations like this? Talk about it. Shout it from the rooftops. Allow yourself to get angry, whether you’re disabled or not. On a practical level, you can also sign petitions, which can be found here and here. Stuff like this has been happening for years. I’m not going to let shame silence me any longer.

a screenshot of a Tweet by Frances Ryan, which reads: “It’s telling how some people refuse to believe DNRs are wrongly used against disabled people in the pandemic. It runs against our natural belief that medical institutions can always be trusted, that they’ll make us better. Not everyone receives the care you do. That’s the point.”
Listen to disabled people. Hear their stories. This is the reality and it’s terrifying.

I can’t remember how many times that I haven’t been able to get the care that I need because my physical disability made things too complicated. For example: one time, I had to have a sigmoidoscopy done at the hospital (don’t ask Google). Afterwards, the nurse asked me if I needed her help getting dressed. My “yes, please” in response must have panicked her. I know this because she very quickly went to find my dad instead, after admitting that she didn’t know exactly how to assist me and therefore felt uncomfortable about it. She didn’t even ask any questions. The reason that I’m sharing this story now is because it can become very easy to feel like a burden, particularly in medical environments. Ugh, it is time to do better. I have had enough. Stop sitting back and letting disabled people die, both in the pandemic and outside of it. We deserve more than that, thanks. xoxo

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