As the self proclaimed Lost Voice Guy, I’m used to not having a voice. In fact, I’ve built a successful career out of it. I take the mick out of my disability because it helps me cope. But, as a disabled bloke, I am also used to not being listened to. Not just by other people in the street, but by people with the ability to make a positive change, such as at local council level and the various governments that I’ve lived through. If I’m honest, I’ve often wondered if it was just all in my head, maybe I was being paranoid and things weren’t as bad as they seemed. Then the Coronavirus crisis came along and I was sadly proved right.
Everyone has struggled
I think we can all agree that everyone has struggled during our lockdowns and whatever will follow them. If you’re keeping track of what you still can and can’t do, you deserve an extra gold star. And I take my hat off to everyone who has managed to cope with it without going completely insane. But I believe that disabled people have been hit particularly hard. Not that you would have noticed. We seem to have been largely forgot about in government briefings and in the media. We’re an afterthought to a country in crisis.
After months of being stuck inside and only being allowed to see a few people, I admit that I’m suffering from loneliness and anxiety. I’m sure a lot of other disabled people are as well. One in five of us are disabled. Months of feeling forgotten is taking its toll. For millions of disabled people at greater risk of coronavirus shielding didn’t pause in the summer. There was no pause on our anxieties, and they’ve taken another spike as many of us are back in – or to add to the confusion just coming out of – lockdown.
The risk of infection remains
So when this lockdown ends I'll be forced to make a judgement call. Do I risk going out or is it still safer to stay indoors? I’m still yet to hear any clear guidance on this in regards to disabled people. We need to be able to make informed choices, and be fully included in government plans. Coronavirus has already robbed disabled people of so much, we must not be robbed of our ability to safely see our loved ones, get groceries and essentials, travel, return to work, return to school, or get the support we need. Not just at a national level but at a local level as well. I have witnessed disabled parking bays being taped off so that people can form queues outside of shops. I know friends who rely on support workers having to move back in with their parents just to survive. We were more concerned about pub closing times than we are about trying to help the vulnerable people in society. How on earth is any of this acceptable?
This has all been a catastrophe for disability equality
I’m worried life will get harder for disabled people. An equal society shouldn’t treat millions of disabled people as an afterthought. That’s why I urge the government to put disabled people at the heart of their recovery. We need a clear plan from government to protect disabled people’s rights and needs at every turn.
I can’t wait until I get the chance and get up on stage and make people laugh again. But that’ll only happen if I’m supported through the hard times (and don’t get me started on the lack of support of the entertainment industry!). Many other disabled people will undoubtedly have very similar stories. We contribute so much to society, so it’s a kick in the teeth to be treated with so much disregard. As a society, we must all do better.
Together, we won’t let disabled people be forgotten.
To support Scope's #WontBeForgotten campaign you can invite your MP to our We Won't Be Forgotten Virtual Reception
, to make sure MPs know how to protect disability employment during the pandemic