COVID-19 And Disabled People

At the outset of the pandemic in the United States in March 2020, disability activists rallied to protest plans for medical rationing and to refute the flawed logic of mainstream journalists who “reassured” readers that only older people and those with disabilities would die from COVID-19. Through webinars, Zoom conferences, podcasts, social media posts, and in-person protests, these activists have continued to demonstrate disability expertise regarding quarantine, congregate housing, accessible tele-work and tele-education, media activism, disability bioethics, distributed networks of support and mutual aid. People across the disability spectrum have described their fears and negative medical encounters, as well as innovative approaches to survival, in opinion pieces, online advocacy, listservs, direct actions, and consultations with city and hospital administrators. Yet these voices and experiences remain marginalized in mainstream discussions of the impact and future consequences of the pandemic, despite the fact that 25% of Americans identify as having a disability. Much of this work has happened online: on websites, through virtual campaigns and actions, and via social media. While this strategy is crucial, especially given the nature of the crisis and the health concerns of many activists, online content is highly ephemeral and is easily lost or deleted. We hope to render this disability expertise more permanent and public through an archive and edited collection of essays, How to be Disabled in a Pandemic (more info coming soon), providing models of disability justice for post-COVID living. We take disability to be a diverse category that encompasses neurodivergence, aging, illness, mental disability, injury, and addiction, and welcome participants who may not identify with the term “disabled.” We are interested in a similarly wide range of experiences related to the pandemic, not limited to those who have contracted the virus: experiences of quarantine, remote work and unemployment, caregiving, stigma, activism, and medical rationing. In the shadow of “risk,” we report on a wide variety of disability experiences including incarceration, low wage and essential work, maternal mental health, anti-Asian violence, senior centers, migrant detention centers, Long Covid, public schools, the MTA, blindness and digital accessibility, arts workers, and the Black Lives Matter protests.