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COVID-19 as Disability Genocide:
How society fails disabled people during disasters

Original Version by Julia Watts Belser

Plain Language Translation by Reid Caplan

A conversation between Marcie Roth and Julia Watts Belser

July 1, 2022

Table of Contents:

How has COVID-19 hurt the disability community?

Julia:  Marcie, you work to show others how COVID-19 has really hurt the disability community. You work to show how COVID-19 has hurt disabled people more than non-disabled people. You fight against policies that make disabled people more likely to die during the pandemic. Can you tell us more about how the pandemic has hurt disabled people? How has it hurt disabled people in more and different ways than non-disabled people?

Marcie:  Disabled people have been terribly hurt by the pandemic. Most of the people who die from COVID-19 have a disability.  They might not think they are disabled. But lots of people have heart problems, for example. People may not think of heart problems as a disability. They may call heart problems an “underlying health condition” or “comorbidity” instead. But people with heart problems still get rights from disability rights laws. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) still protects people with heart problems. 

Julia:  That is an important idea that people often forget.  People forget how many different kinds of disabilities there are. They only think about a few different kinds of disabilities.  And that makes it harder to see how COVID-19 has affected all disabled people. It means we’re missing a chance to use the rights that disability advocates fought for. We’re missing the chance for the ADA to protect us.  

Marcie:  That’s right.  People with disabilities usually get talked about in a certain way. We get called old, fragile, and frail. All these words make people feel bad for us. And the media hardly ever talks about disability when they talk about COVID-19. Instead, we hear about people who have “underlying health conditions.” We don’t even get called people with disabilities. 

People with disabilities have specific rights. But people won’t know that if they only listen to how most media talks about COVID-19.

Edited by Lucy Child, Amanda Chu, and Julia Watts Belser

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“COVID-19 as Disability Genocide: How planning for emergencies fails disabled people during disasters – a conversation between Marcie Roth and Julia Watts Belser.”  Plain Language Translation by Reid Caplan.  Disability and Climate Change: A Public Archive Project. July 1, 2022.