While there are many negative effects of the current crisis, one of the often-overlooked impacts has been on the disabled community – and how they are being indirectly effected by the ‘new normal’.
One of the earliest and most disturbing reflections of this trend came in the form of a policy paper issued by the Israeli Council on Bioethics which addressed the question of appropriation of limited resources during Corona treatment. The paper delineated that the nature and extent of a person’s handicap could be used as a factor in if and how their care should be prioritized over a non-disabled patient, in the case of limited resources.
When we saw that statement, we at Tzohar’s Center for Jewish Ethics immediately worked to have the matter clarified and demanded that the Council rethink their statement.
We are in a time and place where it is clear that the plight of the disabled community is being overlooked, perhaps with the explanation that there are more pressing concerns in public healthcare.
But as the Corona crisis appears to be continuing for some time, we need to ensure that the needs of this community are bring prioritized – and certainly not pushed aside.
One example is how almost all major events have been canceled and many are now taking place virtually via Zoom or other online platforms. The result is that the hard-of-hearing, who previously benefited from in-person sign-language interpreters, are at a serious disadvantage and are not able to benefit from these sessions. Both practical and technological solutions exist to overcome this issue and should be addressed by event planners and organizers.
A similar challenge comes from the widespread use of masks. Many people who are hearing impaired rely on basic lip-reading to be able to communicate and that ability has obviously now been taken away from them. Masks also muffle speech which makes it particularly challenging for the elderly for whom their hearing has naturally begin to deteriorate.
These are just two examples- and there are certainly many more demonstrating how challenging a time this is for this community. But we have a moral responsibility to be that much more sensitive and do whatever we can to make this time less difficult for them.
In this time of crisis for all, it is critical that we remain focused not only on health but also on empathy and the plight of those who all too easily can be forgotten.