Part I of Disproportional Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on People with Disabilities

As the number of coronavirus cases in the US tops 6.8 million and the number of deaths from Covid-19 tops 200,000, we spend today’s show looking at the disproportionate effects the pandemic is having on older adults and people with disabilities. We’ve all heard the harrowing stories in the media about some of the early coronavirus hotspots being nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, but we wanted to go deeper. According to the CDC, 94% of people who died from Covid-19 in the US had at least one other health condition or contributing cause of death. What does that mean for the disability community and for older adults?

This is Part I of this conversation. Part II will be released next Monday.

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We are also seeing other ways in which the pandemic is impacting the lives of people with disabilities and older adults. Many are experiencing a disruption in community-based long term services and supports, the services which enable so many of us to live in our communities and get the help we need to do so. We’re seeing how the transition to online learning is working really well for some students with disabilities but is leaving others behind. With unemployment numbers soaring, we’re seeing people with disabilities being laid off or furloughed at much higher rates than people without disabilities, and once they are laid off, they are having a much harder time finding new work, as compared to their nondisabled peers. And perhaps most strikingly, as the CDC data suggest, we are seeing that the toll that the coronavirus takes on the body can be much more severe for people with underlying health conditions.

The list goes on, and we will get into all of this in a moment, but first we want to introduce you to our guests. We’re joined by a roundtable of people from here in Nevada County and across the country who are looking at this issue from multiple perspectives.

Joining us locally is Monet Clark, a healer and eco-feminist performance based video and photographic artist in Nevada City. Monet grew up in Nevada County and has been a guest on Disability Rap in the past to share her story of living with a neuro-immune disease. Monet recently had symptoms consistent with Covid-19 and is here to share with us about her experience with Covid-19, as a person with a disability.

From Sacramento, California, Dr. Leonard Abbeduto is joining us. Len is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Director of the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis. His research is focused broadly on the development of language across the lifespan in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and the family context for language development. He recently co-authored a letter to the editor of The American Journal of Psychiatry, entitled “The Impact of Covid-19 on Individuals With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Clinical and Scientific Priorities.”

Meg O’Connell is joining us from Saint Augustine, Florida. Meg is the Founder and CEO of Global Disability Inclusion, which works with companies, foundations, non-profits, universities, and government agencies to help them realize the business benefits of disability inclusion. Meg has worked with some of the world’s top brands across a variety of industries and has been implementing and leading disability inclusion efforts for large organizations since the mid-1990s. She is an experienced Human Resource professional who has won numerous awards for her work, developing talent management strategies, customer solutions, employee engagement, and corporate marketing and branding campaigns, all geared towards including people with disabilities in the workforce, workplace, and marketplace.

And from Los Angeles, Denny Chan is with us. Denny is a Senior Staff Attorney at Justice in Aging, a national organization that uses the power of law to fight senior poverty by securing access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources. Justice in Aging focuses their efforts primarily on those who have been marginalized and excluded from justice, such as women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with limited English proficiency. Denny joined Justice in Aging’s Health Care team in 2014. He previously served as a rotating law clerk for the US District Court in Los Angeles and participated in the Fulbright English Teaching Program as a fellow in Macau, China.