The COVID-related concerns of disabled individuals increase as health protocols are lifted.
Governments need to take action to ensure that disabled people do not get left behind during the next wave of the pandemic.
In the two years, we’ve dealt with the COVID-19 epidemic, It’s been clear how fragile the social position of people with disabilities is. With the increasing number of health care protocols being loosened and the possibility of cases increasing yet again, we, the disabled individuals, face grave concerns about our safety.
There were many concerns in the previous COVID wave, but they remain while we wait for the next. There were discussions about how handicapped people may be denied healthcare if there is an increase in severe cases. Additionally, we struggled with the lack of access to medical services and the lack of access to vaccination facilities, and limited protection for those immune-compromised, especially now that the masks are falling off. We as a community were ignored, ignored, or even dismissed by the people in authority. For people with disabilities, this absence of policy has once again highlighted the extent to which we’re invisible.
But, yet we shouldn’t be.
Disabled people constitute the largest minority group in the world. More than a billion people are disabled worldwide and make up over 20 percent of the population of working age in Canada. However, we are frequently seen as a constant addition or an afterthought in policy-making. This is mainly in the case of the pandemic.
Disability-related people pay a disproportionately large price during the entire pandemic. Numerous studies have shown that those who are disabled have a higher risk of dying of COVID. A study in The Canada Medical Association Journal suggests that of the patients admitted to hospitals suffering from COVID Ontario in the year 2020, around 22 percent were disabled. According to the study, patients with disabilities had a higher risk of dying than patients with no disability (28.1 percent against 17.6 percent). They also were hospitalized longer and had more rates of readmissions.
Disabled Canadians are not considered in the policies regarding COVID-19.
Prioritization and the possibility of discrimination and bias against disabled persons
But, the report about their demises, especially when connected to their underlying ailments, reduced their chances of survival in various ways. When news broke that a disabled person had passed away from COVID, others tried to minimize the spread of the virus as nothing more than flu cited the deaths as a further instance of Darwinism. It was acceptable to say that a disabled person passed away from this illness, as they said. In some way, our lives were less valuable.
Many of the supports and services disabled people depended on during the epidemic weren’t considered necessary. They were subsequently shut down at a time when the majority of Canadians were able to continue shopping at their favorite fabric stores or shop at their local big-box grocery store. In the case of many people with disabilities that require regular access to medical treatment and other services, the absence of access to healthcare and the increased wait times added stress. Additionally, those who relied on the limited daytime programs were left with nowhere to go after COVID shut down the schedule. Other facilities could not reopen due to insufficient staffing and protective equipment. Add that to the demise of easily accessible public facilities like libraries, which offer internet access for free, and you’ve got an entire section of Canadian society waiting in the shadows.
The provincial governments had difficulty making sure disabled residents in long-term, and personal care facilities weren’t exposed to COVID. They also acted just after having done so when setting up rules that prevented personnel working for private services from being in multiple locations simultaneously. They failed to ensure that personal care workers had adequate protective equipment when working in homes for disabled persons.
Disability-related people were already more likely to live in poverty. However, we were among the few groups to receive a single financial aid payment for the pandemic. This was only made available after intensive lobbying of disability advocacy groups. In June of 2020, the federal government offered one-time charges of $600 to disabled people to cover “extraordinary expenses incurred by persons living with disabilities.” The government, however, offered an earlier Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) months before that was paid out monthly for $2,000 and also ran in the same manner. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) was introduced in May. It was worth $1,250 per month. Disability was a secondary concern. The COVID phrase that was meant to unite us in the outbreak, “We’re all in this together “we’re all in this together,” is only used to draw attention to the inequities of the system for us that are disabled as we weren’t treated in the same way as everyone who isn’t.
A Statistics Canada analysis noted the various impacts of COVID on disabled people and work. A survey was conducted between June 23- June 6, 2020; around one-third of those with disabilities reported having experienced temporary or permanent loss of employment or reduced hours in the epidemic. A quarter of the disabled depended on disability benefits, with 17 percent covered by CERB and CESB. About one-third of those who participated said that their income from the household declined. The ability to eat or buy PPE was among the most frequently cut items from budgets. Nearly half of them had difficulties fulfilling financial obligations.
It is time to begin exploring the reality of systemic ableism (discrimination due to disability) regardless of how unpleasant it may sound. While the world is slowly improving its approach to various discrimination affecting the marginalized, ableism is generally not understood or acknowledged. The absence of a policy in Canada and apathy at the problem of the disabled when we were at most significant risk indicates that it’s now time to pay to the issue.
We are in the midst of another outbreak. It is likely to be another pandemic. Now is the time to focus on the implications for the lives of thousands of Canadians who have disabilities. To do this, we can refer to COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group Report for the essential suggestions. Start by making sure that every province collects and reports precise information (cases and deaths and recoveries) separated by gender, disability, race, and other interconnected variables.
Additionally, all levels of government need to develop protocols to make sure disabled people have priority when it comes to accessing the healthcare services they need to be able to function. Thirdly, policies regarding hospital visits and the essential worker classifications need to be updated to ensure that disabled individuals are not invisible again. At the very minimum, every province must be equipped with an emergency response plan to assist people with disabilities in times of emergency shortly.