New Video on the COVID-19 Pandemic's Impact on People with Disabilities in Indiana

December 7, 2022

Indiana Disability History Project
Indiana Disability History Project

"Some of us have a lot of health issues that we were born with, along with getting this virus makes it a whole lot worse." Ashley Porter is one of the interviewees featured in a new video from the Indiana Disability History Project. The video looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of Hoosiers with disabilities, drawing upon themes that emerged in remote interviews conducted from 2020 to 2022. Interviewees included people with disabilities, their families, disability professionals, and policy makers.

Common themes are a heightened awareness of health disparities, challenges to mental health, and a stressed system of disability services. Interviewees discuss the state's initially low priority for COVID vaccination of people with disabilities. They describe barriers related to health procedures in both vaccination and testing. "No one thought about people with disabilities, having a setup for people with autism, people with developmental disabilities, people with Down syndrome," observes Ledrena Girton. Deaf people experienced communication barriers due to mask use.

Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent topics. There was also loss of loved ones. "I couldn't imagine my life, you know, without Joe," shares Melody Cooper. "He's the man that I had married and loved for 15 years." A chronic shortage of direct care professionals got worse during the pandemic. Families took on new responsibilities in place of missing staff services as well as in supporting their children’s remotely delivered education. Already a group of people who are underrepresented in the workforce, unemployment was also worsened for those with disabilities.

There were gains achieved due to COVID-19 in the accessibility offered by telehealth, online events, meetings, and classes. Interviewee Zully Alvarado questions whether the gains will endure. "We don't want to go back to the so-called normal... we've been fighting against that. We don't want it to come back to that."

The Indiana Disability History Project was carried out by the Center for Health Equity at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community and was funded by the Indiana Governor's Council for People with Disabilities.

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/mRsWaKLBEm8.