• Troyer & Good, PC

COVID-19 Lockdown Creates Opportunities for Disabled

The coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to many people and businesses. More and more people must work and socialize from home using virtual methods. While this has been an adjustment for many, it has created new opportunities for those who are disabled. Often, disabled persons miss out on working or socializing due to poor access. However, virtual living allows everyone to participate right from their own homes.

For example, Nicola, who is 43, loved going to museums, but a painful nerve condition has kept her housebound for 17 years. With the move to virtual recreation, she's been able to tour museums around the world.

“I ‘went’ to the Watts Gallery [in Surrey] and then the Louvre. The Rijks [museum in Amsterdam] had a walk-through on their Instagram account,” she said. “Having the opportunity to visit virtually has given me back something that I’d resigned myself to not being able to do within my limitations. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed it.”

In another case, Paula, who is 50, is able to attend concerts again. She has been bedridden for two years with severe myalgic encephalomyeleitis (ME) and had to give up going to concerts. However, her favorite band and many other artists are doing shows from home on Instagram.

“[Watching them] felt elating, especially when they played my favorite song,” she said. “I was alone in my bedroom but felt part of the audience because everyone else was too. Suddenly, it seems like the abled world I used to inhabit has become accessible to me.”

Brian, who is 47, has been on bed rest for four years with spina bifida. The move to online socialization has allowed him to spend more time with friends.

“Since lockdown I have actually felt better about my situation, given all of society now experiencing a form of ‘bed rest’,” he said. Brian is even giving advice to loved ones on how to cope with isolation when they feel anxious or stressed. “I’m finding my community, for so long seeming so much further away, is now literally so much closer to home.”

In other cases, the lockdown has created more career opportunities. Laura, who is 28, is mostly housebound due to hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (which affects connective tissue) and ME. She has always wanted to be a writer and has published a few short stories while working on a novel.

“For years, I’ve been looking wistfully at Penguin’s Write Now scheme, which provides potential year-long support for under-represented writers trying to break into the industry, including those with disabilities. Sadly, they’ve always required physical attendance at workshops before,” she said.

Now with coronavirus, the workshops will be conducted online. For the first time, Laura was able to send in an application. “It’s entirely possible I won’t be selected – but at least now I’ll know, instead of being prevented from even giving it a try,” she said.

In addition, the lockdown has produced more online church services. Karin, 42, has a brain injury and broken ankle. She is now able to attend church services online with her pastor.

“I had been missing the feeling of community. Being able to listen to my pastor preach, hear stories about what is happening in the wider community and have some leadership has made the difference,” she said. “Of course, you can pray and have faith at home, but a big part of Christianity is community and it is difficult to feel cut off from that.”

Virtual healthcare has been another positive change. Disabled people have long campaigned for virtual doctor visits. Now, many healthcare physicians offer video conference consultations.

While many disabled people are happy about these new opportunities, some feel frustrated that it took the non-disabled world to become housebound for change to happen.

Emma, 21, has Pots syndrome (which results in an abnormally increased heart rate after sitting up or standing) and neurological problems. She has been trying to get remote access to film classes for her degree for the last three years. The university refused her, saying it wasn't "feasible." However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the entire university to conduct classes online.

“I am so torn between being so grateful that I can get my education and […] feeling a bit betrayed that it was possible the whole time,” she said. Emma has hope that the lockdown will bring about permanent changes in the future. “I feel like people are finally understanding the physical barriers disabled people face. I’m actually really optimistic good will come out of this,” she said.

Source: The Guardian Covid lockdown opening up world for people with disabilities

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