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July marked 30 years since President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. And while the U.S. has come far since then, the nation still has a long way to go when it comes to achieving health equity. The current public health crisis of COVID-19 has only exacerbated existing inequities for people with disabilities. 

Credit Kristina Ortiz

Kristina Ortiz and Tim Himes aren’t brother and sister by blood, but they might as well be. They’ve never known life apart. Ortiz was six months old when her foster mother brought Himes home from the hospital.  

“I’m always there for you,” Himes said on a video call with Ortiz. 

Lauren Bavis | Side Effects Public Media

This story was updated on July 24, 2020 to include additional information on deaths in group homes.

One of the ways Mikaela Coppedge has coped during the COVID-19 pandemic has been through writing poetry. Her poem “The Fear That Is COVID-19," starts: 

“Since the coronavirus outbreak and then the quarantine beginning, life as we know has all somewhat gone to hell.” 

Coppedge has a rare brain disease called Rasmussen’s encephalitis. As a treatment, half her brain was removed when she was three years old.  

Photo courtesy of Brandon Duncan

Brandon Duncan describes himself as fearless. So when he first heard news reports about the novel coronavirus, the 30-year-old wasn’t afraid for himself. 

“I’m like, how is this going to affect Danny?” he says.