“People with disabilities are among the world’s most marginalized and stigmatized [...] under normal circumstances,” according to Jane Buchanan, the Deputy Disability Rights director at Human Rights Watch. One billion people, which accounts for 15% of the world's population, experience some form of disability. Disabled individuals are more likely to be marginalized by society, dealing with poorer health outcomes, higher unemployment, lower levels of education, and higher poverty rates (The World Bank).
With COVID-19, people with disabilities have faced even greater hardships. The UN reveals how COVID-19-related deaths for senior citizens with disabilities can be as high as 72%. With the pandemic, disabled individuals have faced even greater hardships in finding employment, while only 28% of them have access to benefits. In low-income countries, this percentage is a mere 1%. In social institutions such as healthcare, people with disabilities are frequently left out in decisions regarding many social policies, according to Vanderbilt University. The pandemic has exacerbated fears of not having access to "health care rationing and concerns [as well as] assistive technology." In addition, individuals with developmental disabilities often live in congregate homes with increased exposure to COVID-19, and “prolonged isolation due to physical distancing and the restriction of visitors to group settings has increased depression and exacerbated cognitive, physical and mental health issues.”
Economically, people with disabilities have increased medical costs while being thrice more likely to be unemployed than an abled person. Even for those in employment, disabled adults are “segregated into low-paying, precarious non-union jobs in the food and service sectors” (Marato, Sage Journal). With the prevalence of life-threatening health concerns for disabled individuals during the pandemic, poverty and unemployment have become an even more pressing problem. Financial stability is a goal “kept out of reach by a variety of societal assumptions,” and the pandemic has backtracked its collective progress (International Committee of the Red Cross).
Disabled people’s opinions on the pandemic are complicated. According to a Forbes article, many individuals feel “feel anxious, undermined, and forgotten—again.” Some chronically ill people do not have access to COVID-19 vaccines, and others are at higher risk of ineffectiveness or complications from it. With the CDC releasing their mask-wearing guidelines, disabled individuals express that they “have no way to tell whether the places [they] have to go to are even partially safe.” As the world opens up, disabled people are facing increased discrimination and ableist responses from the larger society. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to shift the vaccine priority to an age-based one put disabled workers at critical risk as they had to wait even longer before vaccination. In an article by the Los Angeles Times, Andy Imparato of Disability Rights California relays how healthcare guidelines for the vaccine “didn’t mention people with disabilities.”
But hope is not lost.
Organizations such as the Disability Rights Fund have provided grants for people with disabilities to “advocate for rights and full inclusion of persons with disabilities during COVID-19 relief efforts.” In another example, anti-discrimination statewide policies for disabled individuals have been enacted due to activism during the pandemic. When a woman with an intellectual disability was taken to a small hospital in Oregon due to COVID-19, she was denied care due to her “low quality of life.” Following the thunder of disability rights advocates, Oregon Senator Sarah Gelser wrote an anti-discrimination bill that banned doctors from denying people treatment based on disability, according to NPR.
Still, equity for disabled communities is only at its starting point. For people with disabilities, the pandemic is far from over. People with intellectual disabilities find it “very difficult to adjust and adapt to changes required by the pandemic, [...] new routines in their daily lives, [and] interruptions in programming and services” (Harvard Health Publishing). Accommodation and support measures need to be enacted; halted services need to be revitalized; financial compensation should be provided to people with disabilities; discrimination needs to stop.
ORGANIZATIONS THAT SUPPORT DISABLED GROUPS
Wayfinder Family Services
Wayfinder provides a range of trauma-informed services to help children, youth and adults discover their path to sustained well-being.
Job Opportunities: Click here
A CHANCE TO THRIVE: Early intervention, special education, recreation, independence, workforce development, and mental health programs give people of all ages who have disabilities the opportunity to thrive.
A SAFE HAVEN: Safe, temporary shelter for youth who have been removed from their families due to maltreatment, residential therapeutic program for foster youth, many of whom have chronic medical or mental health conditions; and medical and mental health services for youth who are in the child welfare system.
A LOVING FAMILY: Foster care and adoption services that match children and youth with families that can provide safe, loving homes.
My Life Foundation
Job Opportunities: www.mylifefoundation.org/blank
My Life Foundation, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit agency committed to providing innovative services for people with disabilities. We develop programs that empower individuals focusing on all aspects of what makes us human. We believe that all the people we serve have a valid and valued perspective of life. We support their rights to be part of society, to make responsible choices, exert greater control over their lives, establish and maintain meaningful relationships, enhance and exercise their gifts and talents, and develop a sense of belonging. We are committed to family involvement, building community support, and understanding the perspective of the individuals we serve.
Easterseals: All Abilities, Limitless Possibilities
Donate: Click here
Today and every day, Easterseals offers indispensable resources to more than a million people and families living with a disability annually. Our best-in-class, inclusive services are provided through a network of local Easterseals facilities in communities nationwide. Easterseals offers hundreds of home and community-based services and supports—categorized into five distinct support areas: Live, Learn, Work, Play and Act.
LIVE: Hands-on comprehensive, vital programs and support to help people reach their full potential. Includes adult and senior services, autism services, medical rehabilitation and health services, mental health services, and residential and housing services.
LEARN: Programs designed to help children and adults learn—and often relearn—basic functions, master skills need to develop and thrive, and be sharp and active across the lifespan. Includes online development screening tools, assistive technology services, early intervention services, child care services, and children services.
WORK: A range of training, placement, and related services helping people prepare for the workforce. Includes veterans and military family services, and workforce Development services.
PLAY: Fun, healthy programs for children, adults, and caregivers to relax, connect with friends, and engage in constructive activities. Includes camping and recreation, respite services, and supportive services.
ACT: Involvement opportunities for our vibrant community of friends and supporters. Includes community engagement and outreach, and educational programming.
INTERVIEW: With EasterSeaks
1. Why target disabled individuals and not any other marginalized group?
Our mission is to change the way the world defines and views disability by making profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day. 2. How has COVID-19 affected the disability group your organization targets?
Our services support people with any disability. The impact to our participants and their families is the same as it has been for everyone else. 3. What kind of services have you continued to provide during the pandemic?
We continued to provide all of the same services, which are listed above. However they transitioned to being delivered via teleservice or telehealth. 4. Moving forward, how will you continue to provide services to disabled individuals?
Many services have resumed in-person and more will soon. Teleservices and telehealth may continue to be options as well.
At I-CREATE YOUTH, we showcased a live and recorded webinar to educate teens on disabled individuals during the pandemic. More than 100 teens worldwide viewed this presentation. You can view a recorded version below.
To collaborate with I-CREATE YOUTH on a project, showcase your project on I-CREATE YOUTH's blog, or write articles for us, please contact us.
I-CREATE YOUTH is an organization that empowers, educates, and connects disabled youth through language in its various forms, from poetry to programming. We teach creative writing workshops, host fellowship and summer research programs, and curate monthly exhibitions featuring disabled changemakers, all in an effort to connect disabled youth and communicate their stories with the world. Learn more about us at icreateyouth.com.