How Pandemic Responses Neglected Disabled People’s Rights

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the UK’s disabled people, who account for six out of ten COVID-19 related deaths.

Thiis reports that according to ONS figures, people with medically diagnosed learning disabilities had a risk of death that involved COVID-19 that was 3.7 times greater for men and women compared to those with no learning disability.

The data also revealed that disabled women were at far greater risk than disabled men, with disabled women 3.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19-related reasons, and 2.0 times more likely for less-disabled women, compared to women with no disabilities.

Disabled men were 3.1 times more at risk, and less-disabled men were 1.9 more at risk than men without disabilities. However, the statistics do not point to a specific single factor, and while social and economic factors do play a part, disabled people face a raised risk due to being exposed to unfavourable conditions compared to non-disabled people.

While some may be more susceptible to the virus due to existing health conditions, social factors also contribute to putting disabled people at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Many disabled people have struggled to get access to personal protective equipment and health information.

Disabled people have had to deal with health discrimination for decades but there’s significant evidence that it has increased during the pandemic.

The issues they face range from inaccessible COVID-19 treatment centres to triage protocols which assume disabled lives are less valuable, and many disability-specific health services also closed during lockdowns after being deemed ‘non-essential’.

The impact of the pandemic goes beyond the virus, however. Disabled people are more likely to be unemployed or in informal work, and therefore more likely to lose their income during lockdowns.

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