Coronavirus: The shielders turning the phrase ‘weak’ on its head

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

This weekend shielding will formally cease. The “elderly and vulnerable” who’ve adopted stringent rules will re-join society and comply with the identical social distancing precautions as everybody else. But some are involved they won’t be able to shake off the label “vulnerable” and the world they left 4 months in the past could also be much less accessible than earlier than, because the BBC’s Octavia Woodward explores.

Octavia Woodward

As somebody with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) – a incapacity that weakens all my muscular tissues and impacts my lungs – I wasn’t thrilled when a probably deadly respiratory virus started to unfold across the globe.

I used to be even much less thrilled when the coronavirus pandemic appeared to divide individuals into two teams: The common inhabitants, and the aged and “vulnerable”.

The V-word was meant to deduce safety however as an alternative, for a number of the 2.2 million individuals requested to protect, it felt dehumanising and adjusted our 21st Century actuality.

The deterioration of incapacity rights started at the beginning, in March. News articles contemplated that some disabled individuals may be denied therapy ought to they get Covid-19 and there have been stories that others have been

pressured into signing Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) varieties.

Then, as lockdown started to ease, extra questions emerged.

Will the one-way methods in retailers use the route with the raise or the steps? How will those that are deaf, lip learn when everyone seems to be sporting masks?

Most of us on the federal government’s Clinically Extremely Vulnerable record have not spent our whole lives feeling weak, as an alternative we have got on with our lives with completely different identities, passions and existence.

So as “normal” life approaches I believed the “vulnerable” may use some PR and sought out Baroness Jane Campbell and Jamie Hale who flip the very thought of weak on its head.

And whereas at first look none of us seem like the sort of people that may tackle coronavirus and win, we do have our personal ventilators, in order that’s an excellent begin…

Listen to Octavia chat to Baroness Jane Campbell for podcast mini-series Meet The ‘Vulnerables’

media captionBaroness Jane Campbell reveals why she hates the time period ‘weak individuals’.

For Baroness Campbell, Covid-19 is just not the primary time she has stood up for incapacity rights. We have the identical situation – SMA – and plenty of rights which have made my life simpler – comparable to being allowed to decide on mainstream training – she helped safe.

As a Member of the House of Lords she sits on the coronary heart of presidency, but once I requested her what she considered the V phrase, she did not mince her phrases.

“I absolutely hate the word ‘vulnerable’. Because I’m anything but. We are not vulnerable people. We are in vulnerable situations,” she acknowledged.

This perspective of defiance is probably not what you count on from a baroness, however her rebellious nature has outlined her profession.

In 1995 she was certainly one of about 30 disabled activists to dam Westminster Bridge within the battle for the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which might make it illegal to discriminate in opposition to an individual primarily based on their incapacity.

”There was a variety of pleasure, a variety of nervousness. None of us had ever performed an motion in our lives earlier than,” she recalls. “Some individuals had barely come out of their entrance doorways.”

But even while causing disruption, people didn’t quite know how to react.

“The police, frankly, didn’t know whether or not to pat us on the top and provides us an ice-cream or attempt to arrest us.”

Ultimately the protest helped pass the DDA in November 1995 which has now become part of the Equality Act 2010.

Jane’s continuous energy to fight is something she gratefully attributes to her upbringing.

“I had dad and mom that would not settle for that I used to be going to simply sit home, be a disabled one that was sorted. They all the time pushed me actually laborious to get on the market and to get a life.”

It’s slightly ironic that in 2020 sitting at home is exactly what disabled people have been told to do even if it’s helped protect us. But getting out there is a sentiment I’m familiar with and was probably made easier because of Jane.

By the time I left home for university, she had fought for legislation which would allow me to employ my own Personal Care Assistants through Direct Payments, rather than having my life dictated by care agency rotas.

This wasn’t available when Jane set off for the University of Sussex.

When I asked how she managed, she replied: “I received myself a boyfriend. That is how I coped.”

The funding that allows me to choose boyfriends without considering their care capabilities is expensive. During the 2018/2019 financial year, councils spent £22.2bn on social care. But this is less than pre-2008 levels before the financial crash hit and austerity measures were introduced. And yet the number of people who need funding is growing.

This is something Jane is acutely aware of given the economic uncertainty coronavirus has triggered.

“We’re going to enter an enormous financial downturn, and that is not excellent news for us. So we now have to be prepared. And we now have to be able to say ‘we should have a slice of this cake’. That we’re not the Expendables. We’re human beings.”

media captionOctavia Woodward chats with the trans and disabled performer.

The expense of being disabled hasn’t escaped the notice of trans and disabled playwright Jamie Hale.

Their vulnerability would probably put them on a par with Jane and me, yet their credits include a solo show at the Barbican and an upcoming Netflix series – achievements that many would envy.

However, it hasn’t been straightforward.

“I’m by no means going to be pitching on an excellent keel with creatives with out entry wants. It will all the time be sophisticated and probably costly to accommodate me,” they say.

So far, Jamie has managed to navigate the industry, but now it too is experiencing difficulties with film making paused and theatres empty which could make it harder for the industry to be so readily inclusive.

To stand out from other artists they often focus on their specialism – disability – but that comes with the fear of being pigeonholed and as a consequence, Jamie refuses to publicly disclose their condition, because “I’m a lot greater than that.”

As a solution to defy this labelling, Jamie has used transition “to take management of the form of my physique”.

They began testosterone nine years ago and had a double mastectomy, but cannot safely transition any further due to their impairment.

“Since then I’ve had a number of tattoos and a variety of piercings and it has been a really related sense of wanting to assert possession over my physique and my pores and skin.”

It is this right to ownership of our lives that can become slippery when different signals are sent out – like the “weak” tag and the pressure to sign DNR forms.

While a turn of phrase might seem insignificant to some, it has felt like a personal attack to many.

This is why the V-word needs to be held to account, especially when we’re about to embrace this new society.

We aren’t simply disabled or vulnerable, we are also the policy makers, journalists, entrepreneurs and everything else you can imagine. In the time of corona, the end of shielding and beyond, we need to be treated as such.


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