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Call for Documentary Participants

All of us have experienced the pandemic in different ways. Some experiences were challenging, heartbreaking, upsetting or outright horrible,; others were positive as new opportunities became available that were previously said to be impossible; and many somewhere in between. We want to showcase the diversity of experiences of the pandemic of disabled people.

As part of our British Academy funded project on the impact of Covid-19 on disabled people in the UK, we are making a documentary mini-series. The series will include 5 10-20 minute videos that will cover different aspects of the pandemic and its impact on disabled people. We want to capture first-hand experiences as well as professional insights. The final series will be published on YouTube and similar platforms.

Who we are looking for

We are looking for you, if you meet the following criteria

  • 18+ years old
  • are disabled (any long-term physical, sensory, cognitive or mental health condition or long-term illness)
  • Ideally live in London, Surrey, Berkshire, West Sussex
  • are happy to talk about your personal and/or professional experience of the pandemic
  • be available for filming in February, early / mid-March, late April or early May (please note you do not need to be available during all of these times but just at any time during this time). Filming can take place weekdays or weekends based on your preference.

What it involves?

You will be talking to a camera or doing an interview-style conversation, based on your preference. We will also film some general footage of you (e.g., doing your work, engaging in household activities, going for a walk, or engaging in a hobby)

Further information

Everyone who will be filmed for the documentary will receive a £100 gift voucher for a shop of their choice. (Please note the shop needs to allow online purchases of gift vouchers)

We aim to ensure that diverse voices are heard and represented. We encourage disabled people of all backgrounds and intersectionalities to come forward (gender, race, ethnicity, religion, LGBTQ+, gender identity, socioeconomic background). Everyone is welcome!

To ensure that disabled people can participate, we will aim to make this as accessible as possible . For instance, we can have a BSL interpreter on site to translate so that you can sign or have our questions translated.

According to your preference, the filming would take place inside or outside.

How to join?

Simply email our academic lead Anica on

Vlog competition launched

We are very excited to announce our Vlog competition.

Who can participate?

Anybody over the age of 18 who lives and works in the UK and has a disability or mental health condition.

What you need to do?

Create a 3-5 minute video about your experience of working during the Covid-19 pandemic. Within this, you choose what you talk about and how you want to present it. We do not expect professional editing. Indeed, we encourage self-filming!

We will add captions and audio-descriptions to the winning Vlogs before publishing themm to ensure that they are accessible to everyone. You do not need to worry about doing this yourself. If you want to film your Vlog in BSL, please go ahead and do so, we will also add captions and voiceover to those before publishing them.

Vlogs need to be in English.

What you can win?

The winning Vlogs will win a £100 gift voucher to a UK-based retailer of their choice and will be featured in our mini-documentary.

Entry forms are here.


As the number of recorded coronavirus cases in the UK approaches 2 million, we are beginning to understand the societal impact of “long covid”. This week, a study from the ONS found 20% of those infected with COVID-19 were symptomatic after 5 weeks. Nearly 10% had symptoms three months after infection. Those with severe after-effects report respiratory problems, chronic fatigue and cognitive impairments. It’s reasonable to assume that many thousands of people in the UK will be affected by chronic or reoccurring symptoms on a permanent basis.

This has sparked discussion about how existing legal protections for disabled workers may apply to those with long covid. An instructive case is the experience of workers with ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. ME/CFS is an acquired condition that substantially impairs the ability to engage in activity. People living with ME/CFS have long faced stigma, discrimination and scepticism. A lack of clarity on the condition’s origins and treatments has allowed detractors (including many medical professionals) to label CFS as psychosomatic, or even invented. While such attitudes are refuted by majority medical opinion, people with ME/CFS often have to fight for recognition from GPs, employers and the state.

Online support groups created by those affected by long covid reflect similar experiences. It is common to find accounts of continuing physical and mental exhaustion which significantly impact people’s ability to live and work. Many report being misdiagnosed with anxiety or turned away from medical help due to a lack of treatment options. Many talk of losing their job or being furloughed. Because we currently lack medical and legal definitions of long covid, those with chronic symptoms are currently unable to access support and protection under existing disability legislation.

The pandemic has reinforced the structural inequalities disabled workers face. The employment gap between disabled and non-disabled workers continues to increase. 7 out of 10 of disabled people in employment report loss of earnings, furlough or redundancy as a result of COVID. Many have been denied requests to work from home. The negative economic outlook means that accommodations disabled workers are legally guaranteed will continue to face pressure. A lack of government response to these issues has perpetuated the marginalisation of disabled people in employment. The attention surrounding long covid presents an opportunity to critically examine this situation.


Gregor Wolbring’s latest article presents a new perspective on the concept of ableism, identifying how “ability expectations” shape social hierarchies. He argues that preferences for certain abilities enable discriminatory behaviour towards societal groups who are perceived to be “ability deficient”. Powerful groups construct ability norms to portray others as physically, cognitively, or morally inferior. We see such discrimination at work in the framing of women as irrational, people of colour as less cognitively able, and disabled people as unable (for whatever reason) to participate in non-disabled society. These negative stereotypes provide justification for exclusion and violence, on both an individual and collective level.

Wolbring’s article brings to mind the rationalisation of welfare cuts over the past decade. Following the 2008 crash, the major parties in the UK agreed on the need to reduce public sector spending. This was informed by economic orthodoxy, as well as a long-term ideological goal, present across all parties, to reduce the state’s welfare commitment. The public presentation of this policy, however, took on a different face. Cuts to disability benefits were warranted because “frauds” and “scroungers”, who were able to work but chose not to, were undermining the system. This was an illusion. In 2012, fraud accounted for 0.7% of total welfare expenditure. This starkly contrasted with stigmatisation of recipients of disability benefit by government ministers and the tabloid press. Their campaign was highly effective. Respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey in 2012 estimated 34% of those receiving disability benefit were claiming fraudulently.

A decade on, welfare expenditure has shrunk by nearly a quarter. There has been a 10% cut to disability benefits, including personal independence payments (PIP). The criteria for receiving disability benefit have also toughened. Many with long-term health problems have been declared “fit to work” and cut off from support. Generally speaking, these former claimants have not entered employment. In fact, people with mental health problems are more likely to have been “shifted” from disability benefits to unemployment as a result of work capability assessments. Here we see ability expectations placing disability claimants in a double bind. After being declared “fit to work”, they enter a job market where discrimination towards disabled people remains rife, and employment opportunities are scarce (the unemployment rate for disabled people remains nearly double that of non-disabled people). As others have argued, negative perceptions of disabled people in the media, including the “benefit scrounger” narrative, contribute to this situation.

As Wolbring notes, ability expectations sort society into “haves” and “have-nots”. Those who possess desired abilities (whether actual or perceived) enjoy privileges unavailable to those without. More than this, the “haves” disdain the “have-nots”. Lack of conformity to ability norms is coded as social problem, used to justify existing social hierarchies. What is striking is how often these ability expectations are unmoored from reality, and resistant to evidence. We need only look to recent debates around disability and welfare to see how ability myths can be used to enact punitive, discriminatory policies.