João Coelho (Portugal) is a writer-activist who is working his best to make sure the voices of the people with disability is heard and not forgotten, please do check out his site https;//www.portugalcomdeficiencia.com/
he wrote on for me and this platform for which I am eternally thankful, thank you João.
I’m 46 and have a disability since birth. Since my early teens, I’ve noticed that I was not alone – we were a kind of a crowd, a very large crowd of different people, with different attitudes towards being physically different. Well, the main questions, from that very specials moments, were nothing more that something like this: what can we do about finding a disco with no stupid disco bouncers, some drunks boys and girls who could not notice that we were sit on wheelchairs and, by the way, enter the dance arena avoiding a fucking stairs? How can we date without being caught by reality? Sometimes, when I felt I was among equals, things were going just fine. Well, they were not so bad at all, and maybe not really fine, but we were like… OK. If we weren’t, beer would help, anyway.
People grew up. People got separated. That’s how it was with this bloody life we live. Today the least I can say about disabled people, the ones I’ve tended to let escape to the mist as well as those who doom to think and know a little bit about contemporary History and civil rights movements, is that we do not exist as a group.
As we all know, Europe is living a pandemic. Portugal, obviously, too. I am not sure if we all are aware of this – even the Europeans – but the European Union is nothing more than a financial link between countries, made by weaker and stronger links. Portugal is a weaker one. Forget Education, Culture, forger Ethics, forget, sometimes, food. We all, Portuguese citizens, are a consequence of that week link. EU has a kind of a queen and some vassal princes, and some of those princes just have to sit and listen. That’s how things are here.
Besides that, God exists and not all things are bad. We are about one million disabled people, ten percent of the Portuguese population. And, as fas as I know, we have a public health system, supported by our own taxes and “hidden contributions” (I mean, that sort of things we can notice we are paying when we receive electricity and water bills but we can´t perceive what we are paying) but – who cares – we pay those bills anyway because we need to take a bath sometimes and cook and eat sometimes and so on.
The big picture goes like this: we live in a perfect European system, a kind of an earthy heaven. But we don’t. We’re dying, and we don’t have any data about it. We’re avoiding going to hospital, because hospitals are more COVID-19 positive than a sick lung. What could be worse than wake up and smell death, when we know our best friend died at night because doctors were more aware about next COVID ambulance arrival than his chest pain?It was not COVID, it was a heart attack. But that’s OK, because a disabled citizen costs a lot more to public health system than a healthy one (till being ran over by a truck or need some BLS in front of a disco because he or she couldn’t get so much ‘shots’).
We’re dying. Slowly dying. But that’s OK, because no one cares about who get the ventilators first. No one cares if you get stuck in the elevator because COVID is data, and you’re not. We still do not have a bloody COVID-19 toolkit officially issued by public authorities because there’s no because. Because we’re not still a number, we’re disposable, recyclable, we’re part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Fortunately, some of us are waking up and understanding than western culture needs to meet eastern culture in a way that we can both teach each other from our own experiences. We’re not guinea pigs and that’s why we should not die, but we can live a bit longer if we can see there’s future across borders.
In a certain sense, right here right now, it seems like we’re COVID-19 immune. But we’re not.
João Coelho (Portugal)