While this is certainly a time for people to practice physical and social distancing, disabled individuals repeatedly have been the victims of discriminatory behavior when in need of assistance.
Most recently a group of railway workers refused to help a woman in her wheelchair onto their train.
This woman, who chooses to remain anonymous but who goes by "Osayuki" on Twitter, shared her experience. Multiple railway workers refused to touch her wheelchair.
After a long day working at her pharmacy, she was attempting to get home by way of Southeastern Railway.
While attempting to board, she requested several men's help. But the railway employees would not help her because of fear of the viral pandemic and being reprimanded by their employer.
Strangely enough, part of their argument was based on a worker who was on-leave. They apparently contracted the virus, specifically after touching someone else's wheelchair.
They emphasized the ill employee will be on-leave for three months. They also believed they would be in trouble with their employer if they repeated the employee's actions of assisting a disabled person.
Denied ramp assistance initially again at London Bridge station travelling home from work at Boots pharmacy. Staff… https://t.co/dyHkbMx0Tq— Osayuki (@Osayuki) 1586122690.0
But when the woman pushed for solid evidence, regarding their story about their fellow employee, they came up empty-handed.
They did, however, continue to insist it was company policy that kept them from assisting disabled people.
When I asked them where is the evidence for this claim, he could not tell me. The staff also told me that Southeast… https://t.co/hdRwFi2158— Osayuki (@Osayuki) 1586122809.0
The woman, who was attempting to board alongside her mother, only received help during this exchange after her mother spoke up.
If it weren't for her bringing her mother, she would have been denied assistance in a similar fashion two weeks in a row.
My mum was there with me again because of the terrible experience I had last week. The staff only agreed to bring t… https://t.co/V4pU8qK09b— Osayuki (@Osayuki) 1586122831.0
The woman also wrote a longer statement and shared the Google Doc version of it on Twitter.
In the statement, she wrote:
"Disabled people are not the source of the coronavirus and we have been stigmatized."
"There should be no reason for staff not to help disabled people making essential journeys during the pandemic."
"Work at the pharmacy was busier than ever today, so it hurts to be denied ramp assistance again. No one deserves to be treated this way because of their disability."
Twitter users were appalled by the woman's treatment while using public transportation.
@osayuki24 @safc4ever The current position is that staff should assist a disabled passenger. The ORR & RDG agreed t… https://t.co/PKqTYZmZSr— Mik Scarlet (@Mik Scarlet) 1586154665.0
@osayuki24 😤 sending my love, this exposes how transport companies see accessibility as a luxury not a necessity.— Catherine ✨✨ (@Catherine ✨✨) 1586146517.0
@osayuki24 Sorry you had to be subjected to this awful treatment. Thanks for your pharmaceutical work and helping others— Tina Hodgkinson (@Tina Hodgkinson) 1586158328.0
@osayuki24 @Tanni_GT This is appalling. It’s up to the employer to provide protection and training to their staff t… https://t.co/tHOSVqgdz0— Doreen14 (@Doreen14) 1586159712.0
@osayuki24 @touretteshero What penalties do people / companies face for this blatant discrimination? It seems so co… https://t.co/o2daSAkiH4— Marianne (they/them) 🏴🇫🇷🇪🇺 (@Marianne (they/them) 🏴🇫🇷🇪🇺) 1586161195.0
Though it is a scary time with a lot of uncertainty, refusing to help someone get home seems less than humane.
It also hardly makes sense to equate one experience with an individual in a wheelchair to another. If in fact the virus was contracted from touching a wheelchair, it stands to reason steps could be taken to prevent it from happening again.
Hopefully this woman, and other disabled passengers, will receive the support they need going forward.
The book Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People is available here.