Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities! A United Nations’ day that “aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.”
The situation for people with disabilities includes many challenges, such as:
- Losing voting rights under guardianship and or not being able to access voting
- Long Medicaid waiver waiting lists, leaving people without the help they need
- Difficulty in accessing or affording health care
And on the top of the list of challenges right now is the impact of COVID-19 on the disability community. The pandemic is deepening and highlighting already existing inequalities for people with disabilities. As Luke, our Executive Director and Community Leader, wrote, “Health disparities are impacting the lives of people with intellectual disabilities across the world. L’Arche as a federation lives with this reality daily. The pandemic has brought this into focus for others to understand and listen to the experiences of people with intellectual disabilities.”
It was recently reported that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are 3 times as likely to die from COVID than the general public. There have been worries about rationing medical equipment, especially ventilators, in a way that discriminates against people with disabilities.
While hospitals and nursing homes have received extra funding and essential worker status, the support has been mixed for organizations supporting people with disabilities. It took months of advocacy to even gain the initial promise of aid.
Advocacy is Key
Along with advocating around many issues facing people with disabilities and their supporters, there is an urgent need to advocate for vaccine accessibility. Will people with disabilities and those that support them be prioritized? Right now that seems uncertain – unless we advocate.
So what can we do to support the disability community via advocacy?
– Reach out to our state or local public health department and ask that direct service professionals and people with disabilities in congregate settings be prioritized in the vaccine rollout.
– Sign up for state or local advocacy organizations newsletters and alerts so you’ll know of advocacy opportunities as they arise. A few to check out:
– Learn from people with disabilities by watching the AS I AM video series and sharing and discussing with your friends.
– Follow people with disabilities and their organizations on social media – some suggestions are: