The current global pandemic has changed the way we live our lives. However, for those living with a disability, lockdown is providing opportunities and an adapted way of living that has been long overlooked.
Digital Culture Vulture
Museums, theatres and galleries have all found ways to stay accessible, even while closed. Countless cultural institutes, like the Louvre and The Royal Opera House have digitally thrown open their doors, giving people like Nicola Welsh the opportunity to virtually visit. Nicola lives with a severe nerve condition which has made it difficult for her to leave the house in the last 17 years. Now, thanks to this immersive technology, she’s explored the beauty of famous landmarks and enjoyed the most spectacular artwork the galleries of Europe have to offer. All from her living room.
Nicola says: “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 realised how much I had missed it.”
That’s What Friends Are For
Staying in touch with friends and loved ones using video-calling apps such as Zoom can be a lifeline, especially if you have limited mobility. What’s more, chatting to someone you can see, even if online, can help you feel better connected than simply hearing someone’s voice down a telephone line. Brian Spalding is becoming a pro at staying social with friends during this time by using video chat. Brian lives with spina bifida and for the last four years has been on bed rest due to his condition. But through the power of video chat, Brian feels his friends are closer than ever.
He explains: “Since lockdown I have actually felt better about my situation, given all of society is now experiencing a form of ‘bed rest’.”
Climbing the Career Ladder
Digital technology is also paving the way for more equal opportunities in the world of work. Businesses and places of learning are continuing to operate online giving more people the chance to work and study from home. Aspiring writer, Laura Elliot, lives with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and has been unable to leave her home for a number of years. Frustratingly, she’s been unable to apply for her dream course; a prestigious writers programme offered by literary powerhouse, Penguin Publishing, due to the travelling required to attend workshops. Now, with lockdown measures in place, the course will be conducted entirely online and Laura plans on applying.
Laura explains the course offers “potential year-long support for under-represented writers trying to break into the industry, including those with disabilities.” She adds: “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.”
Adapting to Online Life
While there’s excitement at these accessible changes, this progress has been a long time coming. Many disabled people face the daily challenges of reduced accessibility and periods of isolation out-with ‘lockdown’. Though the changes are welcome, some people in the disabled community are disappointed they’ve only been made now able-bodied people are impacted. Karin Turner, who has a brain injury, chooses to focus on the positives however. She believes that the pandemic could be a unique opportunity for more attention to be paid to the needs of the disabled community.
Karin comments: “I feel like people are finally understanding the physical barriers disabled people face, and I’m actually really optimistic good will come out of this.”