Comedian Rosie Jones just gave a powerful speech on Question Time about the government’s treatment of people living with a disability in the pandemic.
As one writer recently pointed out in a Stylist article, many people living with a disability feel like they have been treated as an afterthought by the government and, inadvertently, the NHS during the pandemic.
A new YouGov survey of more than 1,000 people living with a disability and of working age (18-65), which was commissioned by the BBC, has found that seven in 10 felt their needs had been “overlooked” since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
According to the research, nearly half of respondents have been unable to socialise, over a third are now unable to access medical appointments because of Covid-19 and just over a quarter have been unable to carry out essentials such as food shopping. Seven in 10 have also been impacted by furlough, loss of income or unemployment.
The study was done to mark the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, which became law in the UK in 1995. The landmark piece of legislation aimed to make it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities. The Equality Act, which replaced the DDA and had its 10th anniversary last month, consolidated all previous anti-discrimination legislation when it commenced in 2010.
Explaining why we need to recognise these survey results, comedian Rosie Jones just gave a powerful speech on this week’s episode of Question Time.
Jones, who was sat next to health minister Matt Hancock, started by saying how the Disability Act, which started when she was five years old, “without a doubt” made her life better.
“I had an education at a mainstream school, I went to university, I got a job and with my cerebral palsy have been a successful and independent human being and I am proud of who I am,” she said. “I can wee in disabled toilets and park where I want because of this groundbreaking Disability Act.”
Explaining why society still has a long way to go, she continued: “Saying that, we’re 25 years on and whenever I walk in the street alone, I wear headphones because of how I walk and I talk, I get abuse on a daily basis.
“I am not alone in that I’ve had times of unemployment – unemployment is huge amongst disabled people. I’ve tried to apply for jobs and I’ve been hung up on because of how I speak.”
Jones went on to describe exactly how the pandemic has affected the issue, adding: “Right now 250,000 disabled people are unemployed because of Covid and that is rising. Disabled people are deliberately ignored because disabled people need more care and more money. And as a disabled person, I’m not getting the care and support I need right now.”
Jones has since shared the clip on Twitter, writing: “I am disabled and I am bloody proud of it. Unsurprisingly, the video has gone viral with over 22,000 likes.
Comedian Francesca Martinez, who powerfully described the impact of austerity on people living with a disability in a 2019 episode of Question Time, has replied to Jones, saying: “Well done to my fellow wobbly @josierones for speaking up so powerfully for all of us on #bbcqt tonight!”
You can stay part of the vital and ongoing conversation about disability and coronavirus by following Rosie Jones on Twitter.
Top image: Aemen Sukkar at Jiksaw.