Disabled women must be involved in designing solutions to the “triple whammy” of barriers they have faced during the pandemic, according to a new report by a Scottish disabled people’s organisation.
Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) said disabled women had faced “particular inequalities” caused by being disabled, being women, and having to deal with COVID-19.
Among the issues they faced during the pandemic were in accessing healthcare and social care, and coping with poverty, barriers to employment, social isolation, and attacks on their human rights.
GDA’s new report, Triple Whammy: Disabled Women’s Lived Experiences of Covid-19, says disabled women are “frequently voiceless and invisible”.
GDA ran 16 events between February 2020 and February 2022 to try to capture their lived experiences, voices and priorities.
The report was shaped by those who attended these events, surveys of more than 2,500 disabled people, and by thousands of other disabled women GDA spoke to and supported during the pandemic.
Some disabled women described how they had been left in pain when routine medical interventions were suspended, while others faced unequal access to COVID-19 treatments and were pressured to sign “do not resuscitate” notices.
Many disabled women saw their social care packages cut or completely withdrawn, and now fear that they will not be reinstated.
Many of those GDA spoke to said they feared they would be left more in debt at the end of the pandemic, and that they would struggle to survive financially.
The report says the pandemic’s impact on poverty, education and employment had hit disabled women the hardest and had “supercharged” pre-pandemic inequalities on access to work and to qualifications.
And it found that many disabled women had experienced digital exclusion and a lack of accessible information which left them lacking the knowledge they needed to stay safe and access support, and experiencing increasing social isolation and loneliness.
They also experienced attacks on their human rights, with many feeling “dispensable” when compared with non-disabled people, “as if they were an accepted, inevitable casualty of Covid-19”.
They also felt that measures taken during lockdown, such as travel restrictions and increased street furniture, failed to take account of their needs, and made it more difficult to access public spaces.
The GDA report says that those in power, and those designing and planning policies and services, must “develop better understanding and analysis of the interrelated barriers which disabled women experience”.
And it says that disabled women and those in power “must work together” to co-design policies, services and actions.
Tressa Burke, GDA’s chief executive, who wrote the report, said: “GDA’s report demonstrates that, during the pandemic, disabled women have faced myriad difficulties – a ‘triple whammy’ of barriers which exacerbate existing inequalities and create new threats.
“To build back better, we must recognise the long history of exclusion and discrimination which has blighted the lives of disabled women and made them more vulnerable and at higher risk – not only directly in relation to health outcomes of the virus, but also in terms of the areas we uncovered such as access to services, increased poverty, social isolation and human rights regressions.
“Overwhelmingly disabled women are ready and willing to be actively involved in co-designing solutions, including shaping post-pandemic priorities, policies and actions.
“It is vital that those planning responses understand correctly the interrelated nature of barriers and that policy solutions are coherent and responsive to this.
“Action now will prevent widening inequalities for disabled women and will improve lives, opportunities and positive outcomes for disabled women and their families.”
Picture: Members of GDA’s Purple Poncho Players at the report’s launch
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