By Michael Rock:
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to generate headlines, including on matters related to the disability community.
Already, at least two prominent advocates have lost their lives to complications related to the virus. April Dunn, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, died March 28 at the age of 33. Dunn, who had fetal alcohol syndrome and cerebral palsy, helped lead the charge in passing a state bill that granted alternate graduation opportunities for students with disabilities.
Tarlach MacNiallais, an L.G.B.T. and disability rights activist, succumbed to it April 1 at the age of 57. He helped found Woodside, Queens’ St. Pat’s For All Parade, which has prided itself on its greater inclusivity compared to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Despite these tragic blows to morale, the pandemic has also allowed for greater awareness and appreciation of the work of direct service professionals. These essential employees continue to work and care for their consumers and the nature of their job renders them vulnerable to coronavirus exposure. More and more disability advocates are eager to reward them for the work they do in this trying time.
It is clear the pandemic poses many serious concerns to people with disabilities, but there are steps being taken to ensure their needs are being met.
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.