Our Fieldnotes section highlights notable ephemera and other materials — photographs, posters, artwork, event documentation, social media campaigns, and beyond  — encountered during our research that document the experiences of diverse disabled people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Multiple people laying on the sidewalk holding signs in front of the White House

#MillionsMissing: #MEAction Protests at White House

On September 19, 2022, the activist group #MEAction held a series of protests at and around the White House in Washington, DC, demanding that President Biden declare Long Covid and ME/CFS a national emergency with increased funding for medical education, research, and treatment. Despite knowing that participating in such an…...

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A young woman wheelchair user poses in front of a mural of outstretched wings, posing triumphantly with her hands in the air.

Samantha’s second vaccination

Samantha Myers photographed by Michelle Schwab two weeks after Samantha’s second vaccination, February 2021. Mural by Jeff Rose King on Bleecker St in Greenwich Village where Sam lives. — Faye Ginsburg

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The black-and-white graphic features a silhouette of a person in profile holding a syringe in one hand. The silhouette has been mirrored both vertically and horizontally so that the figure appears in each corner of the graphic. Written above the figures in varying font sizes from top to bottom are “Stop Rationing Care,” “Stop Medical Apartheid,” “Vaccinate Now,” “Global Inoculation Against Viral Fascism,” “End Eugenics,” and at the bottom of the image “End Vaccine Hoarding.”

Brothers Sick: Pareidolia (Vaccinate Now)

Pareidolia (Vaccinate Now), one of the posters created by Brothers Sick (Ezra Benus and Noah Benus) during the pandemic, reminds that vaccination is urgent but not always straightforward. The Brothers Sick demand an end to medical rationing, the rationing of care, and vaccine hoarding on a global scale. Sussanne Pfeffer, director…...

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A tweet from Rent Refusers Network showing a confrontation between activists, the SRG, NYPD, DSNY and DHS at the unhoused camp called "Anarchy Row." (Tweet accessible in post.)

Anarchy Row: NYC’s Management of the Unhoused

More images: In early April 2022, NYC’s administration engaged in a series of sweeps on unhoused encampments in the city in an effort to reduce homelessness in the city. The sweeps consist in dismantling the camps, dislodging people, and discarding their belongings and redirecting them in safe havens or stabilization…...

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Screenshot of website of the NYC Office of the Mayor with photo showing Mayor Adams making an announcement with several people behind him and a headline that reads "Mayor Adams Announces Plan to Provide Care for Individuals Suffering From Untreated Severe Mental Illness Across NYC."

Scapegoating Unhoused and “Mentally Ill” People 

Former police captain Eric Adams won the 2021 New York City mayoral election, in year two of the pandemic, with a “war on crime” campaign that has often manifested as a war on unhoused and mentally disabled people. Unhoused people had been forced into parks and streets as a result…...

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Screnshot of Twitter from Imani Barbarin saying: "Contrary to popular belief, @CDCDirector , disabled people aren’t just data points. Every life lost was loved by someone, someone’s community member, someone’s friend. How callous to say you’re encouraged by the prospect of their deaths. #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy"


On January 7, 2022 CDC director Rochelle Walensky made a remark on Good Morning America about deaths from the Omicron variant of Covid that provoked outrage in the disability community: “These are people who were unwell to begin with. And yes: really encouraging news in the context of Omicron.” In…...

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Screenshot of Imani Barbarin, a Black disabled activist, speaking at the camera on TikTok.

Covid-19 as a Mass Disabling Event

In December 2020, Imani Barbarin (responding to a TikTok by Ram Danielle on the long term effects of Covid) created a TikTok post (@crutches_and_spice) in which she powerfully stated, “I cant stress this to you all enough, but Covid-19 is a mass disabling event. People are becoming disabled because of…...

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Governor Cuomo announcing the executive order of NYS-Pause. We can read "Valve closed" and Pause is in the form of an acrostic: P for Policies, A for Assure, U for Uniform, S for Safety, E for Everyone.

New York State Pause Executive Order and Mathilda’s Law

On March 22 2020, with an exponential rate of new COVID cases in the New York State, Governor Cuomo signed two documents: The executive order “New York State on PAUSE” which contains a set of 10 rules for the general population, including closing all non-essential business and banning the gatherings…...

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Rebelwheels appear in a collage in which she breathes fire, with multicolor hair and wearing a horned French beret with the words "resisto", "power", "heart", "mouth", "soul", "love" pasted around her.

“Disabled In NYC : #MyCovidStory”

In her blog entry “Disabled In NYC : #MyCovidStory?,” Rebelwheels NYC aka Michelle Kaplan discusses her reality during COVID as a disabled person receiving services at home, losing her usual CDPA home aides over a lack of resources, and contracting COVID from the ones sent by a more traditional agency.…...

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Screenshot of article from the Guardian, featuring illustration of a white woman looking away from the camera with collaged elements including images of pills, medical tests, and viruses.

Medical Gaslighting

In February 2022, Mike Mariana published an article in The Guardian about what he called “the great gaslighting.” Mariana, who lives with ME/CFS, describes the dismissal, “misdiagnosing and psychologizing” of Covid longhaulers as a form of “medical gaslighting” that can lead to “medical PTSD” as well as social stigma and…...

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A community memorial featuring images and text attached to a tree, with a large pile of flowers placed at the base of the tree

In Memory of Lives Lost

This is a picture of an ad-hoc memorial to Christina Yuna Lee, outside of the Chrystie Street apartment building where she died. Her murder has been reported as both part of a rising tide of anti-Asian violence in New York City and part of the uniquely gendered violence that Asian women, in…...

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Five Black and brown men (from left to right: Vince, Jay, Tito, Pete and Var) sit in wheelchairs outside, all lined up in a straight horizontal line facing the camera. They wear T-shirts and sneakers and some wear baseball caps. They all look into the camera with serious expressions.

Fire Through Dry Grass

Jay (second from left) is Co-Director of an upcoming documentary, Fire Through Dry Grass, that is centered on a group of people living at Coler Specialty Hospital on Roosevelt Island, a rehabilitation and nursing center in New York City. These men formed the Reality Poets, and are part of OPEN DOORS, a network of…...

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A Facebook post by BCID saying : "We had a great event yesterday handing out KN95 masks and leaflets at Atlantic Terminal! We gave out all the masks we had with us and reminded people to #MaskUp on public transit.” With four thumbnails of the action.

Mask Up! Campaign

Even if it is still required by the MTA, the number of people wearing masks as they board the train, bus or paratransit vehicles dwindled in June 2022. Disabled activists from the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled took upon themselves meet the riders outside the Atlantic terminal station…...

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Words #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy on a Purple paper cut heart on pink background

#MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy (Jen White-Johnson remix)

On January 9, 2022, artist Jen White-Johnson created a cut paper heart design to amplify the hashtag #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy created by Imani Barbarin (discussed in another fieldnote). Johnson tweeted: “#MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy this hashtag needs to be plastered for all the world to see.” — Mara Mills

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Screenshot of NYC Department of Education website with a section entitled "More Special Education Support Will Be Available for Students with Disabilities" (full text available at link in post).

NYC Department of Education Academic Recovery Plan

On July 8, 2021 Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter discussed the Academic Recovery Plan on the NYC Department of Education (DOE) website. Acknowledging that disabled students had been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, the DOE plan included the following bullet points: We will launch afterschool and Saturday programs for students with IEPs to…...

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A young man stands in a hard, hugging a rainbow umbrella

Ethan Jones’s Coming Out Ritual

Autistic activist Ethan Jones, age 26, photo by Maria Hodamarska (mother), taken June 2020. When the pandemic hit New York, the family moved to Deer Isle, Maine. While there, Ethan told us, that he had time to reflect and embrace what had been an emergent gay identity. On the last…...

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Screenshot of article in Journal of Medical Ethics (full text available in link in post)

Racial Bias in Ventilator Triage Guidelines

Harald Schmidt, Dorothy Roberts, and Amaka Eneanya published an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 2021 (e-pub; print publication 2022) in response to the activation by many states of “Crisis Standards of Care” policies during the pandemic. Among other things, these policies guide the rationing of ventilators based…...

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Photo by People's CDC on May 29, 2022. May be an image of map and text that says 'More than 96% of US residents live in an area with subsantial or high COVID-19 transmission. People's CDC COVID-19 Transmission Levels MAY 26 source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fCous %ofPop. Moderate 16.52% 15.53% 61.27% 3.44% 5.28%'.

The People’s CDC

The People’s CDC was founded in 2022 in response to the CDC “creating the appearance that the pandemic is over.” According to the group’s website, which offers resources and weekly Covid transmission reports, “The People’s CDC is a coalition of public health practitioners, scientists, healthcare workers, educators, advocates and people…...

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Screenshot of tweet from @KateMcWilli that says: "We are all talking about how it feels to see ableds accommodating themselves with the the accessibility that we disabled people fight for every day, all because of #COVIDー19. Let's use the hashtag #AccessiblilityForAbleds when we talk about this. I want to hear your thoughts!"


On March 7, 2020, as North American cities began to respond to the pandemic with remote school and work options, Canadian disability activist Kate McWilliams created the hashtag #AccessibilityForAbleds. The pandemic revealed how easy it was to provide certain accommodations that disabled and chronically ill people had been demanding, unsuccessfully, for…...

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Linoleum block print of black and white sunflowers with yellow petals growing on either side of the words “Disabled people deserve to live” in dark green lettering.

Roan Boucher (AORTA): Disabled People Deserve to Live

From AORTA’s Instagram: Ableism has informed the US’s pandemic response since the beginning. Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky cited the “encouraging” data that the majority of Covid deaths are in those with 4 or more pre-existing medical conditions. This statement and its phrasing lay bare what disabled people have…...

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A prototype for a mural with the headline "Say Their Names" featuring a Black power fist with the infinity symbol and the words “Black Disabled Lives Matter” written down the wrist of the fist. There are images that spell out "BDLM" in ASL and a list of names of Black Disabled people killed by police.

Jen White Johnson: Black Disabled Lives Matter Mural Project

Artist, designer, educator, and activist Jen White Johnson created several designs for mural projects honoring Black disabled individuals who were killed by police, as she writes: Since sharing the details of this mural, many disability collectives have reached out to me asking how they can create this mural in their…...

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A group of protestors stand on the sidewalk holding signs outside of MOCA

Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association Protests MOCA

Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association organized a picket line in September 2021 to protest against MOCA, which is accused of not representing the Chinatown community and “selling out” the community. Local residents, small businesses, and workers in Chinatown are severely hit by the pandemic, while gentrification worsens the living conditions…...

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Downstate New York ADAPT Activists in Washington, DC

Downstate New York ADAPT activists travelled to Washington, DC on May 9 and 10, 2022, protesting in front of the Capitol to demand accessible, affordable, and integrated housing. The group challenged the nursing home industry as high cost structures with poor and dangerous clinical outcomes, as well as isolation and…...

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Screenshot of Tweet by @SeeMiaRoll featuring a photo of Congresswoman Grace Meng appearing on MSNBC. Tweet reads: ". @Grace4NY , I am extremely disappointed in you recommending institutionalizing individuals with mental health disabilities to keep AA/PI safe on @MSNBC . I would be happy to chat with you about how this actually makes us less safe, particularly disabled AA/PI."

@SeeMiaRoll on Mental Disability and Anti-Asian Violence

Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens) spoke to MSNBC on February 15, 2022 about the murders of Michelle Go and Christina Yuna Lee in the context of a 339% increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans in the past year. Commenting that more than 50% of the cases in New York involved…...

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Screenshot of tweets from @JaiVirdi. Main tweet says: "I've been holding off on explaining what's going on, but I guess this is a good time. During my October surgery for endometriosis, the surgeons found an ovarian tumor & I've been diagnosed with cancer. The pain worsens every day. This second surgery was supposed to help." Quoted tweet says: "*in tears* What I was worrying would happen, happened: increasing covid hospitalizations forced the hospital to cancel my surgery. Will be suffering for a while longer, as there's no indication when surgery will be rescheduled. I'm just...hopeless. numb. I don't know."

Covid-19 Hospitalizations Lead to Surgical Delays

Disability historian and activist Jaipreet Virdi tweeted in January 2022 about the postponement of her surgery to remove a cancerous ovarian tumor as a result of a new wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations. Elective surgeries, and sometimes critical surgeries, have routinely been postponed in hospitals across the U.S. during the pandemic.…...

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Screenshot of a GoFundMe page for Crip Fund, with an image of a small bottle of hand sanitizer with an Ace of Cups tarot image as its label. The page shows that $56,925 was donated during the short fundraiser.

Crip Fund

Ninety-five percent of artists lost significant income during the pandemic, with performances and exhibitions cancelled and access to studio spaces restricted. A group of disabled and chronically ill artists organized Crip Fund in March 2020, pooling money and distributing food, medicine, and other aid to “immunocompromised and disabled people in need of in-home…...

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Screenshot of letter from the NFB to President Biden (full text available via link in post)

NFB on Inaccessibility of At-Home Covid Tests

Throughout the pandemic, many forms of Covid testing have been inaccessible to blind people, from drive-through testing sites to home tests that rely on visual instructions and displays. Some apps, such as Be My Eyes (founded by visually-impaired inventor Hans Jørgen Wiberg) have allowed blind people to video-call sighted people for…...

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Photograph of a painted mural by artist Chella Man, depicting illustrated hands spelling out the message "Black Disabled Trans Lives Matter" in American Sign Language. The letter "a" in the words "black," "disabled," and "trans" are all connected. The hands are colored using the colors of the trans and Pride flags (including black and brown).

Chella Man: Black Disabled Trans Lives Matter mural

Photograph of a painted mural by artist Chella Man, located at 112 Christopher Street in Manhattan, depicting illustrated hands spelling out the message “Black Disabled Trans Lives Matter” in American Sign Language. As Chella Man notes on his website: Prior to painting, I realized the identities “Black”, “Disabled”, and “Trans”…...

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Share Your Stories & Materials

In addition to the ethnographic interviews and oral histories initiated by our team of faculty and graduate students, we are eager to be in dialogue with any members of the community who wish to have their experiences preserved. Our digital repository will be preserved and made accessible by the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, a part of NYU Special Collections, at New York University.

We invite you to share your experiences in one of the following ways: Testimonials, Images & Artifacts, and Interviews / Oral Histories.

Please note: due to size and scope considerations, not all materials will necessarily be included in the archive or website.