In every crisis there is the opportunity for paradigm shifts and systems change that can advance progress. We are facing a dangerous winter as we wait for vaccines to become more readily available. But we will come out of it, and when we do, we will have the opportunity to create more inclusive economies and communities.
In the days and months ahead, we will have to confront the broken systems that have been exposed. These include inequities in health care, including rationing of health care, across economic conditions, geography, age, race and disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90% of all COVID-19-related hospitalizations were people with underlying conditions. And while we know that not all people with disabilities have underlying conditions, we also know that most people with such conditions are people with disabilities. We also know that more than a million people with disabilities have lost their jobs, and that distance learning has been catastrophic to students with disabilities. Indeed, mental health issues across the board are skyrocketing. But we are also oversaturated and overwhelmed with bad news. We need realistic and hopeful messages that are based on facts.
The truth is that the disability community has faced extraordinary losses — but we are also strong and resilient. Thomas Edison, who was deaf, was America’s greatest inventor. Stephen Hawking unlocked the secrets of the universe from a wheelchair. Harriet Tubman freed slaves while living with a seizure disorder. Today Greta Thunberg, who is on the Autism spectrum, is a global leader working to literally save the world.
Fully 1.2 billion people in the world live with some form of disability. We bring innovation, talent, heart and solutions to challenges that impact us all. The world will be a better place when everyone — including people with disabilities — can fully participate in creating progress for everyone.