In recent weeks, my faith in humanity has been both shattered and rebuilt more times than I can count. I’ve seen people coming together, supporting one another in ways that make my heart sing. But I’ve also witnessed some of the most selfish behavior and disheartening discourse surrounding all things related to COVID-19.
Something that has really stood out to me is the inherent ableism in the way we talk about this pandemic and how we’ve been treating the most vulnerable among us.
There’s something I need to get off my chest in regard to all this, and I really hope my able-bodied friends are listening: I AM NOT EXPENDABLE!
Every time a news anchor prefaces a COVID-19 story by emphasizing that it mostly affects the elderly and immunocompromised, it sends the message that the well-being of vulnerable populations is secondary.
When friends say that this is “only” killing those with underlying health conditions or the elderly, it feels as if my entire existence is reduced to “only.” Something expendable. Nothing worthy of concern.
When considering the very real possibility of having to ration healthcare, and the decision is made to prioritize the young and healthy over the elderly and disabled, once again the message is that certain lives have more value than others.
It’s both saddening and elucidating to see how quickly employers and educators have made accommodations that would have greatly benefited disabled folks in the past— things like increased work-from-home options and distance-learning curriculums.
Throughout all this, the message (whether intentional or not) has been that the lives of disabled people are less valuable. I emphatically reject that!
I have a genetic disease that makes me more vulnerable to the effects of this virus, but that does not mean I am less worthy of accommodations or life-saving care.
My life expectancy may be shorter than that of others, but that does not make my life less valuable. When people debase the worth and value of folks like myself, quite frankly, it makes me mad as hell
Disabled lives have value. Immunocompromised lives have value. Elderly lives have value. We are worthy of concern and respect.
We are not expendable.