Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Disabled People’s Experiences of the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Call to Action for Social Change

Full Text   PDF (free download)
Views: 1249 | Downloads: 784


The Coronavirus pandemic has caused significant disruption and change in most aspects of society, and there are concerns that disabled people may be particularly disadvantaged. This article, written by disabled activists and non‐disabled allies, shares data extrapolated from focus groups regarding the lived experiences of twelve disabled people and disability allies during the Covid‐19 pandemic, eleven of whom were based in the UK, and one based in Iraq. We describe the key issues and learning points from this data, arguing that the measures taken by the government and organisations to protect the public during the pandemic have instead brought to the fore long‐standing ableist narratives regarding which bodies are valuable in society. This ableist agenda has acted to control and silence the voices of disabled people by objectifying disability and defining “pre‐existing health conditions” as being more expendable, and therefore less worthy of attention during the pandemic. In presenting our position for change and call to action, we will argue that it is only when disabled people’s experiences and voices are heard in decision‐making that policymakers can begin to learn from the inequalities that have been demonstrated through the pandemic. Here, we will introduce our Wellcome Trust‐funded “We Are the People” Disability Research Collective programme (2021–2026). This programme develops a new disability activist‐led research network, whereby disabled people can conduct research into topics that are important to them.

Keywords:  ableism; activism; Coronavirus; disability; silencing; social change



© Stuart Read, Anne Parfitt, Tanvir Bush, Ben Simmons, Martin Levinson. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.