How long COVID could change the way we think about disability

The coronavirus pandemic has created a mass-disabling event that experts liken to HIV, polio or World War II, with millions suffering the long-term effects of infection with the coronavirus. Many have found their lives dramatically changed and are grappling with what it means to be disabled.

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“It’s an entirely new identity,” Stanislawczyk said.

The dramatic influx of newly disabled Americans changes the calculus for disability advocates, who have in recent years been uniting around a shared identity, pushing back against historic marginalization by affirming their self worth and embracing their disabilities…

Not all long haulers meet the threshold commonly associated with being disabled, such as difficulty hearing, seeing, climbing stairs or dressing. Just over 30 years ago, the Americans With Disabilities Act was written broadly, and it has a legal definition that encompasses anyone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

“One of the things that is so beautiful about disability, is it is big enough to include children in Flint, black women with alopecia, and long covid,” said Rebecca Cokley, program officer for the Ford Foundation’s Disability Rights program who has achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism.

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