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Opinion: Your temporary COVID-19 inconvenience is for people with disabilities a permanent reality

By Doris Maldonado

People with disabilities have been in perpetual quarantine long before COVID-19. That’s right! While you’re drowning in a few weeks of our reality; it’s been this bad for many of us for much longer. For some of us, it’s been an entire lifetime.

My name is Doris Maldonado, resident of West Hartford, a co-chair at Keep The Promise Coalition & Unitarian Society of Hartford Accessibility & Inclusion Ministry and I am a person with disabilities.

Doris with sons, Tyler (to her right) and Dylan (to her left), 2020

I am the mother of twin sons diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit  Hyperactive Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Neurocognitive & Comprehension disorder, CVA, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Spinal Stenosis, Exotropia, Aphasia, Asthma & Puberty.

My sons and I have been indefinitely quarantined. We’ve survived endless gas lit eras for the sake of “equity” and “social distancing”.  

I am a proud Puerto Rican woman with bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in education.  Between my sons and I – we don over 15 physical and mental health diagnoses, declared medically complex and have been alienated for all intents and purposes.    

People with disabilities have been in perpetual quarantine and economic divide long before COVID-19.

For the disadvantaged, our advantage is the chronic default of “making do with less.” Having leaders make light of flapping hands or propose a process of elimination for COVID-19 testing or PPE based on survival of the fittest remains our sobering reality.

Yes! It’s exhausting having to “keep it together” while being “grounded” under legal mandate.  Everything is not “ok” and for those of us that have lived the farce of empty promises disguised with smiles and applause, life isn’t a box of chocolates.  

Limited access to physicians, education, housing, finance, safety, medicine, recreation, socializing, quality time and quality air?  Wow!  It’s not sci-fi- it’s the American Reality show!  We’ve been forced to “present well” and, when even that lie isn’t enough to appease typical peers, we’re shamed as self-serving and “pity party” mongers.  Oh, we’re “those people”.

Welcome to our new year’s twilight marathon!  Somehow, tele-health, transportation, medicine, groceries, take-out, video conferencing, work, extracurriculars, sports, concerts and even ALCOHOL are now delivered at little to no cost to a device or door near you! 

Free meals for students, distance learning, one-on-one outdoor trips, voting, housing and-A STIMULUS for all when there was “no budget” to help the homeless, disabled, children in care, veterans and aging-will be beamed into online accounts sooner than later.

There was NO budget for the disabled for supports like supplemental income, computers for marginalized students-let alone cell phones ensuring we were all connected. Now internet providers and even pay per view shows are waving fees!  

So many of our people remain tired, poor, huddled in masses and yearning to breathe free while quarantined for decades from basic human liberties.

1 in 5 people experience mental illness while 1 in 6 has 1 or more developmental disabilities. What is now a nuisance, alarm or threat for the privileged, is NOT a nuance for the rest of us. We, the adults and children with physical and mental disabilities, those in care and people with economic and housing insecurity have been fighting for our lives and survival long before the star-spangled banners waved.  

Doris Maldonado is interviewed in Spanish by CT en Vivo

So, welcome to our reality. Your weeks of stay-at-home, stay-safe inconvenience is our day in and day out. Now that COVID19-19 has woken you from your happily-ever-after slumber and given you a taste of what it’s like to walk in the shoes of the disabled – don’t just do something about getting basic resources for the short term; just during this health emergency. Make it a point to demand that federal, state and local governments provide these equity leveling services permanently and for all.

That weight you’re feeling right now because of the worldwide pandemic…we, persons with disabilities, have been carrying it for quite some time!

Publisher’s Note: champions the discussion and debate of issues addressing the quality of life of the Hispanic/Latino community. We welcome the opinions of all Connecticut communities in sharing knowledge, skills, values to make a difference through civic engagement.

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