Disabled Women Have Been Hit Worst Of All By Lockdown

Coronavirus lockdown has stranded normally independent disabled women at home, with nearly two thirds struggling to get basic necessities from the shops and more than half finding it hard to cope with isolation. One teacher and PhD student, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, told HuffPost UK she hadn’t left the house for 14 weeks – having faced a “dystopian nightmare” of panic buying and careless shoppers the last time she went out. She, like many, has struggled to get online delivery slots. “After being so independent, I now feel completely reliant on others – and ultimately my husband – due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.”  Susan, who lives in York and is married to Tom Wright with three children, says she has been affected in multiple ways by the coronavirus crisis and has had an unsettling and disjointed experience. She uses a manual wheelchair and, before the coronavirus crisis, enjoyed a full life teaching at the University of York and studying for a PhD. When the pandemic hit, her life changed drastically and she found herself juggling numerous challenges on top of her disability. Although Susan was not on the initial list of vulnerable people instructed to shield by the government, she and her family made a decision in mid-March that she should lock down and stay at home to protect her health. “We made this decision as it felt like the right thing to do to protect me against the virus.” Around the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when there was discussion about who might or might not be given a ventilator if they became infected with the virus, Susan was upset when people with cerebral palsy were listed as among those who would not receive treatment. “It was a very emotional and difficult time.” On one of her last trips out of the house before she locked herself down to shield, Susan went to the supermarket to do an ordinary shop – and was horrified by the way she was treated by people panic-buying food. I am a robust person but I felt like I was in a dystopian nightmare.” Susan had major issues trying to organise online shopping as she wasn’t officially on the list of people needing assistance due to shielding. Then in mid-April, Susan received a letter out of the blue from NHS England telling her that they had now decided she was on the list of people who needed to shield by staying at home – even though nothing had changed. As a result, homeschooling her three children and cooking meals every day for the five of them is predominantly falling on her – on top of the challenges of her disability. “The virus has brought to the fore how society views disabled people – that our lives are less valuable, and somehow we are more expendable. Without it, we will struggle against even deeper social inequality long after the lockdown ends.” Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “Disabled women’s experiences have been hidden from view until now. “Yet the levels of disadvantage and pressure they face are immense and among the highest we have seen.” Sophie Harman, professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London, fears there may be further hardship ahead for people with disabilities with the easing of lockdown.