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Over the past year through the lockdowns and many restrictions, while healthy non-disabled people have often felt isolated, lonely and frustrated, many of us who are disabled and chronically ill have felt more connected to the outside world than we have in years.

It’s been over a year now since the first Covid-19 lockdown. I have written before about how the changes put in place to accommodate these restrictions made the world more accessible to me – so much I had previously been excluded from became available online.

But as lockdown restrictions ease and things start to return to ‘normal’ I am concerned these accessibility changes will be removed, and we, in the disabled community will once again be excluded and forgotten.

This post serves the purpose of highlighting exactly how these accessibility changes positively impacted our lives, and why we need them to stay post-Covid.

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I wanted to write this post for a few reasons;

1. To highlight to healthy, non-disabled people the positive impact these, sometimes small, changes have had on our lives – I truly believe the vast majority of the public are unaware.

2. To show it’s possible; even though we have been told for years these accessibility changes were too much hassle or too costly to implement. When the masses needed these resources and adaptations they happened almost overnight.

3. We now know the world can be more accessible, and we have the knowledge and tools to make it so.

4. And to beg (yes, I’m not too proud to beg) that these glimpses of freedom and accessibility are not taken from us when things start to return to ‘normal’, whatever normal is. I have personally thrived over the last 12 months – life has been easier, I haven’t felt as excluded, I haven’t felt like such an outsider… and I’ve had fun – I don’t want to lose these opportunities & independence.

For this post I reached out to my followers and asked;

● What positives have come from the pandemic for you as someone living with chronic ill-health & disability? 

● What accessibility changes have made your life easier or more fun?

● What have you enjoyed online that had previously been inaccessible to you? 

● What would you miss now if they were removed post pandemic?

Thank you to everyone who responded.

How the world became more accessible

Here are some of the ways the world has become more accessible and more fun due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Remote working became the norm

The disabled community has been asking for more flexibility with regards to working from home for years, but we have been largely ignored. Employment is out of reach to many of us simply because we cannot travel, or workplaces are not accessible. Also the added energy used up getting dressed & travelling means we don’t have the spoons to carry out a day’s work as well.

Remote working has paved the way for disabled people to return to work after years of absence, and for those who are chronically ill and already in employment, it has lessened the negative impact on their health.

@spaceshipkitten: “All meetings for my university are now remote, and no more pressure to spend hours of time and energy to get in and out of the city just to do the same work in the office instead of at home.”

@chronicallyjenni: “Definitely working from home has made my life 1000 times easier”

@me_behindthefog: “… it is a complete farce that accessibility has only been granted now able bodied people need it. I worked myself to being more sick because my requests to work from home predominantly were turned down, had to give up my job last year after being off unwell for a significant period because I pushed to hard. Now everyone is fully working from home because of the pandemic. I can’t say for sure my health wouldn’t have declined as it did if I was allowed to work from home as a reasonable adjustment but it feels inherently unfair especially when occ health & ME nurse both recommended it to support me working. Sorry for the long, possibly nonsense ramble.”

@lovelilyflower: “….Also this has paved the way for me to be able to get back to work from home when I improve ❤”

Telehealth appointments took the stress away

This one makes me scream at times…. Why aren’t telephone appointments the norm for those too sick to travel or leave the house without serious negative consequences to their health? The option should always be there for those of us that need it, yet it’s a constant battle in my experience.

Telehealth appointments took the stress away, but sadly we know this option will not remain in most cases post-pandemic.

@lici_button: “I got to attend pain clinic courses over zoom where before I was forced to drive 3 hours to attend.”

@hey.illness: “…most of the specialists I wanted to see over the years are suddenly available online without a problem…. I never had been able to go see them and they had refused to do an online session even though I am disabled…..lots of paperwork has become easier….online live meditations…. I just hope it lasts after the pandemic! ❤”

Andie Willis: “I am waiting for a phone call right now from doc. I love that we can now have video or phone calls, travelling for a 10 min appointment is ridiculous. So I’m grateful for that.”

Emmy Morris: “Easier – more zoom and tele health appointments, which make life so much easier when seizures have me bed bound for weeks at a time sometimes. An appointment I had over Zoom and the medical portal side of things etc, one of my doctors told me I looked miserable and I agreed I was and described how many back to back seizures I’d had and why seeing her through my phone from my own bed was sooo much easier! Since I could not even sit up that day, I definitely could not have gotten to her offices that day even if COVID wasn’t going on and even with a wheelchair, so having that appointment available virtually was a HUGE life saver! 🙌🏻🙌🏻”

@CortisolChaos: “Having medical appointments by telephone. Obviously there are times when I need to attend in person, but during the pandemic most appointments have been by telephone. It’s saved me a day of travel and days of exhaustion afterwards. It’s much more convenient.”

@hillbillyspider: “telehealth was the a huge benefit for me in terms of accessibility this year and i know i’ll go back to having spotty healthcare when it’s gone because I simply cannot get to physical appointments

Penny Calvert: “I agree, especially with accessing a Dr far more easily. The contrast has been miraculous quite honestly…

Remote learning increased opportunities 

Schools, colleges and universities, like workplaces, are notoriously inaccessible, yet education is just as vital to disabled people as the non-disabled world. Lack of access has meant many of us have been excluded, and consequently missed out on opportunities to progress.

Remote learning has opened up many opportunities for those previously unable to physically attend classes, and also lessened the negative impact on the health of those already studying. And let’s not forget the teachers, lecturers and staff working in these institutions – remote working offers many positives for disabled people.

@spaceshipkitten: “All meetings for my university are now remote…They also finally fixed the VPN access for PhD students that has not worked for at least 4 years.”

@TheFuzzyLobster: “This. The amount of conferences and seminars I’ve been able to attend have been greatly increased because they did them virtually…. I don’t want to lose that.”

More online wellbeing & mental health resources 

Access to mental health resources should be available to everyone, but sadly many of us with physical disabilities are often denied this vital service.

The pandemic made these services accessible and opened up a whole host of online wellbeing resources to us.

@me_behindthefog: “Being able to see a therapist online, nobody would do that before the pandemic & I couldn’t commit to being able to leave the house for appointments or realistically have the energy for a journey to & from the appointment as well as the mental exhaustion from the session ❤”

@lovelilyflower: “All the online meditation & well-being classes, energy healing treatments, therapy sessions via zoom instead of not being able to make appt or seeing so rarely due to being unable to leave the house.”

Janice Rennalls: “I think amusing myself at home, learning spiritual and healing stuff, having time for myself and not relying on outside socializing to bring contentment.”

Remote worshipping became an option

Practicing personal faith and being part of the community through local churches is a lifeline for many. But those who are housebound due to chronic ill-health, or simply unable to travel or sit through church services, have been previously excluded.

Remote worshipping offers the opportunity to be a part of this community and actively participate in church services and other religious activities.

@greeney180: “Church from home! I struggle with waking up early enough and staying awake through it due to the stillness in the church environment. But being at home in bed without physical exertion and being able to watch it later is a game changer!!”

@lici_button: “I can now watch church from home.”

Andie Willis: “Church services, meeting new people that have become family.”

Emmy Morris: “…and more things from my church available online have all been really great!”

Andrea Polla: “I need ZOOM. I have connected with more people in my belief system than ever. I have toured via video tours where I honeymooned in Amalfi again. I feel present in a world I can not easily fit into.”

@hikerannosaurus: “So grateful that can do church and Bible study from home. This is something my church wasn’t doing before the pandemic.”

More fun stuff became available online

When you’re chronically ill or disabled the fun stuff is often forgotten or an afterthought. I don’t mean by us – but the non-disabled world seems to believe only our basic needs are important (although we are often denied even this).

But we deserve to have fun just as much as everyone else, and having a way to participate in this fun stuff without the potentially huge negative impact on our health has been the best thing about the pandemic for many of us. 

For the first time in years I’ve felt included in activities I was previously excluded from. Personally for me live music has been the biggest benefit – I had missed it so much.

Jo Moss: “I have been able to attend gigs again for the first time in 8 years, thanks to online live streaming and increased Instagram and Facebook live events. I’ve also been able to start learning guitar online, and I’ve felt far more connected to the live music community on social media.”

Helena Louise: “…and also listening to talks on zoom. Being able to see places on Facebook that I can’t go to for example feeding time at the zoo.”

Emmy Morris: More fun – more museums with virtual tours, more musicians doing live stream concerts.. [..] The museum tours and virtual concerts have been particularly fun! 🎼🎼”

@lovelilyflower: “Listening to random gigs.”

@Sally_Writes: “I know lockdown is tough for many people but, as someone who’s been housebound for 15 years, suddenly life is quite a bit more accessible. I can attend writing workshops, order afternoon tea and tonight I watched musicals on IPlayer and I cried with happiness.”

Janette Purdie: “In the last year, there have been virtual sewing retreats, online sewing shows and lots of online classes and videos. Without having to travel to them and being able to watch them at my own pace has been amazing. But soon enough, things will move offline and no longer be as easily accessible. It’s such a shame. I live in hope that some of them will continue to do online content. 😊”

@sonia.typed: “As a disabled, full time, 24hr, Sole Carer, for my 80yr old Mother, for the last few years, I have found the Pandemic opened up a lot of online courses, parties, concerts, Theatre DJ sets, lectures, online Comedy shows, Art Talks, Therapy, Counselling, and much more, to me and many like me. I am currently almost prematurely grieving for the return to “normal life”. as it means that those of us with no money, and who can’t get out, will once again be pushed out of “the real World” and back into our own veritable prison.”

JHayes: “I’ve been to galleries and museums online. I’ve attended talks on art and history online. All during the pandemic and all things I couldn’t have done in person. I could watch them later if I was too ill to watch live. Please, please let this continue so I feel connected with the world I love but can’t reach physically.”

Increased options for socialising remotely 

Being chronically ill can be so isolating. Many of us simply cannot meet up with friends and participate in social events. And those of us that can often spend the following days, or even weeks, recovering from the negative impact on our health.

The pandemic introduced a lot more options to socialise remotely, and this type of interacting became the norm so we didn’t feel excluded. I truly hope this remains…. We need more social interaction… we need the support of our friends.

@chronicallyjenni: “…and also doing the clubs I’m a part of via zoom and seeing people socially via video chat and there generally being less pressure to get dressed/made up x”

Helena Louise: “Connecting with others on zoom”

Feeling more connected meant less grief

Constantly being excluded from the outside world brings with it a grief that only those who are chronically ill and disabled truly understand. This overwhelming grief lifted for many of us during the pandemic as the world became more accessible and we were able to be a part of society again.

@lovelilyflower: “A big change is not waking up with deep grief everyday (for 10 yrs) that I’m missing out on life, must be because everyone’s now in the same situation. Obviously I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone, but it is what it is.”

An increased understanding of what it’s like to be housebound 

During the pandemic non-disabled people got a small taste of what it’s like to be housebound and isolated – something many of us have experienced for years. This brought with it an increased awareness of what it’s like for us.

I would like to be optimistic and believe that this understanding will continue post-lockdown, but sadly I fear we will be forgotten pretty quickly. I honestly think the struggles of isolation will become a distant memory as the rest of the world returns to normal. I truly hope I am wrong.

Helena Louise: “…Also other people’s kindness which there has been far more of since the pandemic I hope it continues!”

@gemmaorton: “Maybe a slight understanding of what it’s like to have restrictions on your life.”

Penny Calvert: “I so hope people will have a greater understanding of our situations. I have feelings of unease as restrictions lift. I hope we’re not all left behind. Xx”

More companies offering free deliveries 

Businesses were forced to adapt to the pandemic lockdown, meaning most started to offer free deliveries on all orders, something which previously wasn’t always available. 

Being disabled is expensive, and these free deliveries had a positive impact and made some products more accessible to us.

@m.e.myselfand4monsters: “Free delivery. but when we came out of lockdown it went back up.”

@hey.illness: “Local supermarkets deliver home….. never did before.”

Many have been able to slow down & enjoy a simpler lifestyle 

I think this is something that a lot of people experienced during the pandemic, not just those of us who are chronically ill. Society adjusted to a slower pace of life – people started to appreciate the small things – we took a collective deep breath, and this has had a positive impact on our mental health.

Victoria Jane: “I just needed to stop rushing about and the pandemic helped that. Weirdly I then got much iller, but I think I was somehow running on adrenaline….which wasn’t going to last forever. I am both more unwell but more healthy at the same time.”

Janice Rennalls: “Enjoying a simpler lifestyle.”

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We need these accessibility changes to remain post-pandemic 

I hope this post helps healthy, non-disabled people understand how the pandemic made the world more accessible to us. I also hope that these changes remain post-Covid.

But sadly, some of these options are already being removed including telehealth appointments.

Here are a few comments from a tweet discussing the subject;

@NilaJones3: “I called the office of the allergist my doctor referred me to, today, and they said they no longer do telehealth. They said oh yeah we did that for a couple months during the pandemic..”

@TorYD11: “I had a friend who lost her job because they “couldn’t” accommodate her (she’s very high risk and unable to take the vaccine). We had been working from home the whole year and she was doing a great job!!! 😢”

@Biomouse: “This is going to happen to me as my campus plans “reopening” protocols for Fall and I’m heartbroken to have my accommodations thrown in the trash like they have been in the past for years.”

@btamamura: “I am often too sick to leave the house. Phone appointments were a life-saver for me. But, now I have to either suck it up and attend the appointments physically even if feeling half-dead, or have my welfare cut. I need them back.”

@DWOBoyle: “I work as an IT contractor. The company I work for had no issue with us working from home during the early parts of the pandemic. All the sudden starting December 1st that changed. No real reason given other then “the client wants everyone on site.”

I have also spoken to a few musicians directly about the situation, and although I’ve been encouraged by a couple who said they would 100% continue with online gigs even after ‘real-life’ shows return, others have stated there is “no need” for live-streaming once things return to normal ~ why can’t we have both?

Finally, my plea to the world;

Post-pandemic, we in the disabled community do not want things to go back to “normal”.

Increased accessibility happened overnight as soon as Covid-19 kept everyone at home.

We can now attend live performances, work & socialise from home, enjoy the Arts online, consult our doctors remotely, worship & be part of the community. We can participate in society in ways that we could not access before with our disabilities and ill-health.

Please do not revert back to restricting access. Disabled people deserve the right to be included.

The new world we are creating needs to be inclusive ~ Access for all.

● How has the world become more accessible and fun for you? Please comment below & share this post. Thank you.

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