Disabled women have begun a three-week protest to highlight “appalling” research findings that showed they were almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 during the pandemic as non-disabled women.
Over 20 disabled members of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) and allies – including the party’s co-founder, Sandi Toksvig – were outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday to begin their #91Percent campaign.
One protester said the research, conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), showed that disabled women have been treated as “collateral damage” by the government during the pandemic.
Freya Papworth, co-chair of WEP’s disability caucus, told Disability News Service (DNS) that she believed the disproportionate deaths were due to discrimination and oppression, including the impact of a decade of government-imposed austerity.
She said: “It’s so much more than just the pandemic. A group of people that were just so vulnerable to begin with to attack, to instability, because the safety net has just been completely destroyed over the last decade so there was nothing to kick in when we had an emergency.”
The party wants to ensure that the official inquiry into the handling of the pandemic crisis examines its impact on disabled people, including the disproportionate loss of life faced by disabled women. They believe these deaths were avoidable.
Disabled women and allies will be protesting in shifts for a total of 91 hours outside parliament over the next three weeks, ending with a larger protest on 20 July.
The party is looking for disabled women and allies to cover 90-minute sections of the Westminster protest, and also for disabled women and allies to conduct 91-minute protests in their own local areas. Obtain more information from the 91Percent campaign website.