Your “Only” is Our “Everything.”

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

It’s strange how times of darkness can shed light on so many things. I’ve seen my share of ignorance and ableism in the last thirteen years of being a parent to children with multiple disabilities, but I have to say it’s unreal the number of people that have been showing their true colors since COVID-19 came on the scene.

I’ve never unfollowed or blocked so many people on social media as I have in the last four months. In a way, this pandemic has been a blessing because I’ve been able to weed out the people that have made it evident that they think people with chronic medical conditions are somehow expendable.

Almost every day, there is at least one person in my newsfeed commenting on a recent COVID-19 related death with something along the lines of “Well, they were older/ had (fill in the blank condition).” Because somehow that makes it “ok” for them. It validates their narrative, which is that they have nothing to worry about because they are not old or sickly.

I’ve been hearing the same thing for months. “It’s only the elderly and people with underlying conditions that have to worry.”

It’s only them.

It’s only people like my children. Like my son with chronic lung disease, who has ended up in intensive care after catching “a simple cold.” Like my daughter, who has intellectual and developmental disabilities, two diagnoses that have both been documented not to fare well with COVID-19. It’s only someone’s elderly or chronically ill loved one.

I’m not sure people realize how much weight the words “It’s only” have, or if they ever will understand unless they have a loved one that falls within that criteria.

Somehow, justifying the horrific outcome that COVID-19 could have on some of our most vulnerable population has become acceptable.

People with disabilities have routinely been marginalized and even thought of as disposable by some, but suddenly, it’s become clear just how many people believe that the medically fragile are somehow acceptable collateral damage in this pandemic. It’s depressing and sad, and it’s yet another reminder that we need to fight even harder for our kids.

When people say, “Only the vulnerable will be at risk,” I wish they would realize that for parents like us, their “only” is our “everything.”

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