There’s a sentiment amongst many disabled people right now when they see able bodied people struggle with the lockdown in place that is along the lines of, “welcome to my world.” I get it. In fact, I’ve felt it myself.
We live in a world where our self-worth is measured by our ability to earn money. And to suddenly be faced, in many situations, with a long period of being stuck at home and unable to do so is infuriating. As is being separated from people we love. People are grieving. They don’t know where to channel that grief either. It’s an all too familiar tale for many of us.
It doesn’t, however, excuse the number of people out there who seem to think it’s appropriate to shut down disabled people during conversations about lockdown or the impact on the those who are physically and socioeconomically more vulnerable. It doesn’t give anyone the right to tell us to suck it up and just go food shopping whilst simultaneously looking at us in horror if we dare to venture outside our front doors.
The UK government has severely let down disabled and vulnerable people with their “extremely vulnerable list”. The narrow list negates so many people with conditions that make social distancing impossible and others who also are likely to die if they catch COVID19 that it would almost be a joke if it wasn’t so serious. This Guardian article shows how we are being effected in regard to food deliveries. While during this episode of Al Jazeera’s The Stream, you can hear how the pandemic is causing problems for disabled people globally, as well as the comments yours truly was asked to provide. It’s a 30 minute stream and well worth watching.
There is also blame to be put at the feet of the hoarders, the able bodied two parent families like my next door neighbours who have vehicles, the single people and couples who can go to the shops but choose to get food deliveries instead. They are taking away much needed slots that disabled people require. My housemate and I both have mobility issues. I’m in a wheelchair, she has ataxia and a severe visual impairment, neither of us drive. We’ve managed to get TWO Tesco shops since the whole thing began and one hasn’t even happened yet because it’s for the 17th May.
Supermarkets are letting us down with their insistence on phone calls. How are those who are non-verbal, hard or hearing or Deaf supposed to call? What about those with severe social anxiety? One Tesco staff member told me she didn’t like phone calls. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s that they literally send me into autistic meltdown. Especially when I’m forced to deal with automated selection lists and tinny hold music.
As disabled people we are becoming forced to rely on more and more ridiculous and expensive methods to get food which we often can’t afford. Takeaways and Amazon Prime Now being good examples. Especially with minimum orders often being £15. The food parcel boxes often don’t cater for individual dietary requirements so if you can order one you can end up with left over food you can’t get rid of because you are supposed to be sheltering in place for twelve weeks due to medical and government advice. But you still can’t get on that vulnerable list….
I spend my days tweeting and campaigning for awareness. Trying to get the main supermarkets to hear the voices of the disabled and vulnerable not on the list, in between worrying about loved ones who have COVID19, who have lost someone to it, or to something else during this pandemic and who can’t hold proper funerals. Or about the loved ones who can’t gain access to much needed services as well as food deliveries.
As I sit here writing this, I’m talking to an Instagram friend who is telling me she’s been sent a letter telling her not to go outside due to her and her partner’s medical conditions. But she cannot get a food a delivery. Her pharmacy won’t deliver medications. She has children. Are they all meant to starve or go without vital daily meds? Again we are being severely let down and no one seems to care.
When we try to explain that the local schemes in place leave us more vulnerable because it means trusting people with our money, the government ignores us. When I told my MP that I can’t rely on local food boxes because of dietary requirements he washed his hands of it. And those increases in benefits? Those only apply to those on Universal Credit, not the thousands of disabled people on legacy benefits.
I am begging the government to listen. But they don’t. Provision for disabled and chronically ill people is woefully inadequate.
“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”Mahatma Gandhi