As a relatively young disabled person, whose illnesses are primarily invisible (except for on the rare instances that my pain gets so bad that it causes me to use a cane), I’m used to non-disabled people not believing that I’m really sick, or worse, thinking I’m making it up in order to get special treatment.
From the time I was a teenager, I’ve had people make sneering judgments that I don’t even look ill, so I must be lying.
At school it was that I didn’t really need a pass to use the toilet; I just wanted to get out of class. Or that I couldn’t be bothered to write, so I had a special needs teaching assistant copying out my notes. Later, as an adult, it was that I could afford to pay for the bus or I wasn’t old, so I didn’t need a free pass. When I was too ill to work and claimed benefits, I was scrounging off the state because ― you’ve guessed it ― I was lazy.
Whenever a disabled person gets reasonable adjustments that bring them up to the same level as their non-disabled peers, it is deemed as more than we deserve or special treatment. People expect us to beg for scraps instead of claiming the things we require to live our lives fully.
Considering that six in ten coronavirus deaths in England have been disabled people, you’d think there’d be national outrage and a campaign to make sure that all disabled people are vaccinated. But that would mean us getting what we needed to survive, or as others are seeing it “jumping the line,” since they deem us unworthy of survival.
At the end of the day, you can’t know someone’s complete medical history just by looking at them – and it’s none of your business in the first place. The only way we’re going to beat this virus is if as many of us are vaccinated as possible. So if you think someone isn’t deserving of a vaccine, maybe you need to reassess which lives you actually value.
Rachel Charlton-Dailey is a freelance journalist. This article first appeared on HuffPost Personal