By Michael Rock:
As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic captures global headlines, the virus and the social climate it has created pose various challenges to people with disabilities.
In fact, those most at risk from the virus itself have some form of disability under the broadest definition: including autoimmune disorders or other chronic illnesses. Those with disabilities may also have greater difficulty preparing for an outbreak, especially those who struggle with mobility, executive dysfunction, or who are unable to live independently, especially when it comes to service interruptions in the latter example.
The use of quarantines to combat the coronavirus has allowed people to increasingly recognize the benefits of remote communication to conduct events such as conferences, work meetings, and religious services: something that many disability advocates have long called for to promote the employment of people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education, along with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, began research determining how they can best serve students with disabilities during the outbreak.
Other challenges the pandemic has posed to people with disabilities include the canceling of Disability Awareness Day events, underestimating or overestimating the need for supplies, can be a risk for those with processing or executive functioning difficulties, as well as delivery of supplies to homebound individuals.
Though many people with disabilities are vulnerable to the coronavirus, it should be made clear that they should not be treated as expected illnesses in expendable members of society. Rather, we should make sure that people with disabilities who may catch the coronavirus get the care they need during this period.
Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.