Earlier this month, the American Association of People with Disabilities held a conference call so members of the public could hear experts discuss a topic of urgent concern: medical rationing during COVID-19.

Even though I have a Ph.D. in social work and am an instructor in Disability Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, my eyes welled up with tears as I listened to the call. So real, and so terrifying is the risk that medical care providers might deny life-saving treatment to Americans who can’t always speak for themselves, a senior staff attorney at a national disability rights group suggested the unthinkable: using a marker to write “I want life-saving treatment” directly onto one’s body.

Despite years of work by human rights activists, despite all the legal gains achieved by countless grassroots organizations working over the last seven decades, an alarming number of people are returning to a dark, uncivilized way of thinking: viewing folks who are disabled as somehow less valuable human beings.

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