BBC research shows ‘horrendous’ pandemic experiences of disabled people

A clip from a BBC film about disabled people

The BBC has published its own research into chronically ill and disabled people’s experience of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. One campaigner called the findings “horrendous”. But the BBC inadvertently pointed to the biggest problem of all: that the government, much of the media, and society at large have ignored the experiences of disabled people throughout the pandemic.

New research

As Ruth Clegg wrote for the BBC:

Thousands of deaf and disabled people across the UK have told the BBC of the devastating impact the pandemic has had on their lives.

The BBC spoke to more than 3,300 chronically ill, deaf, and disabled people. It found that:

  • 2,604 said their mental health had “got worse”.
  • 2,427 said their conditions or impairments “had deteriorated”.
  • 683 said medical professionals had cancelled “all” of their appointments, or they were unable to attend them.
  • 241 said they “had not left house at all”.
Josselin’s story

It told one disabled person’s story:

Fourteen-year-old Josselin has a rare genetic condition, which means she has hearing loss, a vision impairment, can’t walk or talk and is fed through a tube.

Her family, who live in Wiltshire, have a vital network of services they rely on to keep her well – physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, respite care. All of that stopped in March 2020.

Read on...

Josselin’s mum said that her daughter “struggled”, for example pulling her hair out. The BBC noted that:

Josselin was prescribed anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medication. She was also given prescription drugs like diazepam to cope with the pain she was having in her hips and her spine because of a lack of physiotherapy.

Her mum said:

Suddenly she was put on all these new medications. There was just no support for us at all – it was horrendous.

And that:

It feels like it’s because she’s disabled so it’s not worth bothering with… She’s not ever going to walk and talk so they just don’t bother with her.

But what was interesting about the BBC research is how Clegg framed it.

The “hidden fallout”?

She wrote that:

The findings paint, for the first time, a comprehensive picture of a hidden fallout of Covid-19.

The charity Scope said that disabled people’s needs “had been forgotten”. But campaigns lead for the group Transport for All Katie Pennick disagreed. She said on Twitter that:

it wasn’t a “hidden fallout”. The impact of COVID has been well documented by disabled people.

She went on to list in a thread the disabled people-led research into the effect of the pandemic that had been published. These reports were barely mentioned in the corporate media, if at all. In July, The Canary wrote about one such report. We reported at the time:

A massive 76% of the people surveyed were dissatisfied with the help that the government offered, while a third of people believed that the government “is neglecting disabled people”.

Disabled people: ignored

But sadly, this was all predictable. As The Canary wrote in March 2020, disabled people’s organisations were already warning about the dangers of the pandemic and the government’s response to it. Now, the BBC research shows that those fears were realised. And as one Twitter user said:

BBC research documenting experiences after the event is too little too late for countless chronically ill, sick, and disabled people. Many were warning about the situation. Others predicted what would happen. Sadly, the government along with much of the media failed to listen.

Featured image via BBC News – screengrab 

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