Today is RUOK Day, the 9th of September 2021 and it’s 18 months into the COVID19 pandemic…
It’s strange to think in the months prior to the pandemic, we were dealing with the worst bushfires we had ever seen in Australia, and like with every other natural disaster we’ve been through, Australia pulled together to help their fellow man. That mateship we saw in the media has gone.
I’m sure if every person was asked R U OK? right now, we could all answer that we’re not ok, and for various reasons. The pandemic has affected everyone in many different ways. We are all frustrated and although it’s a nice sentiment, we are not all in this together. There are people who are doing it tougher than others during these times due to isolation and myriad other reasons.
I’m an introvert, so for me, I’ve only had a couple of meltdowns. Once in June 2020 because of so many uncertainties and needing an end in sight, and my second one happened this past week. This latest one was a result of seeing the discussions on social media peppered with ableism. Where we sit in regards to the way forward out of our current situation is not a part of my concern, but my concern is for the people who are missing from these conversations that are being had in these spaces — people with disabilities. If we’re not missing, we are being talked about with the disregard I mentioned. Let me give you some examples which have led to my frustration and anger.
- “What were their co-morbidities?” — People don’t realise this, but when they’re asking this question, the underlying message is that the death was ok because that person had something else wrong with them. In the UK, 60% of COVID19 deaths have been disabled people. It’s hard to find more stats like these, not because they don’t occur, but because of their importance to governments.
- “It’s not worse than the flu” — If you’re privileged enough to be healthy, it might just be the flu for you, but for the rest of us with disabilities, we don’t have the privilege of taking that gamble. I’ve had Pneumonia, Pleurisy, Swine Flu and as a result of that, I’ve also had a collapsed lung. There are many people out there who will die if they get it. So when you’re saying things like “it’s no worse than the flu”, you’re showing your privilege, be aware of where you are saying this.
- My third example is what I see as people performing what I’m sure they see to be civil disobedience, but is demonstrating able-bodied privilege. Public protests, bragging about not wearing masks because it goes against their “human rights” and “freedoms”. As a disabled person, I and many others don’t have that privilege. I can’t socially distance myself because of the assistance I need. I rely on people who I have no idea who they’ve been in contact with or where they’ve been.
- My final example relates to discussions around the ‘no jab, no entry’ policy. While how businesses handle this is up to them, I have seen comparisons made about the choice not to vaccine being akin to disability discrimination. While I might understand where people are attempting to come from while making comparisons, please remember that disability is NOT a choice and is not a comparison one should be making. I did not choose to be born with a disability.
This RUOK day, it’s a good opportunity to attempt to take our minds out of our own situation. It’s taken me a few days to do just that in order to write this without “going postal”. When thinking about the natural disasters we’ve faced, I remember images of people helping other people protect their properties, and this time is no different, those properties are just in another form, our bodies. Some bodies are just more unfamiliar to us than others, but still no less worthy of protection than those houses from previous disasters.