Disability, Dehumanization and Covid-19 and the Impact on Disabled People’s Lives

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Omonojo, Kikelomo
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This study is aimed at exploring the experiences of disabled people during the COVID-19 pandemic. It focuses on the dehumanization of disabled people during the COVID-19 pandemic by analyzing articles written by disabled people and their allies on the dehumanizing treatment disabled people have experienced using the critical discourse analysis (CDA) of Van Dijk. The research questions driving the thesis are: In what ways has COVID-19 shown that disabled people are still devalued and dehumanized in society? What has been the impact of dehumanization on disabled people during the COVID-19 pandemic? The social model of disability, albeit in a modified version, was used as the theoretical framework because it is appropriate for the aim of the study. The social model argues that the oppression and devaluation disabled people experience in society is a result of attitudinal and physical barriers in the environment, and not because of their impairment. The modified version on the other hand, argues that the personal circumstances of individual disabled people are equally important. The thesis analyzed twenty-one scholarly and news articles on topics bordering on disability and negative treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The topics of the articles include: “RE: Complaint of Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and The Arc of the United States,” “Exhausted Parents of Disabled Children Feel ‘Abandoned’ as COVID Shut Services,” and “How Medical Discourse on who to Save during the Pandemic in the US Dehumanizes Disabled People,” The themes identified in the course of the analysis are: “Disabled People are Expendable,” “Disabled People as Second Class Citizens,” and “A Disregard for the Welfare of Disabled People.” The thesis used Van Dijk’s sociocognition in CDA to probe the context of the dehumanization in the texts. It was discovered that the treatment disabled people are experiencing during the pandemic is a reflection of the way society views them; this societal attitude has been in existence long before the pandemic. The thesis, therefore, proposes that ableism is at the root of oppression disabled people have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the deliberate and continuous education on behalf of and by disabled people will be insufficient if everyone in society does not make it their aim to see the other person as deserving of humanity as themselves no matter their physical, mental, and cognitive ability and state.
disregard, discountenance, relegated, disease outbreak