Selfish hopes for including the disabled in the new normal

Quarantine is basically over in most places it seems, except where second waves of Covid-19 have popped up with intensity. Here in New York, even gyms finally reopened, which was part of the last phase of reopening. When they open their doors it brought joy to those who have spent the last 5 months being forced to find other ways to get their exercise. There is some legitimate concern about resurgences happening of coronavirus as everything increasingly gets back to normal – or at least to a new normal with masks and social distancing measures in place.

One of the very few good things that the pandemic has achieved has been to put the disabled and homebound on a tiny bit more of an even footing with general society. How? Well, primarily by enabling more participation in life by people who cannot participate in the usual ways.

Teleconferencing and Zoom meetings are not new technology. Necessity has made these types of things improve dramatically. They have become smart tools of life, not a rarity, or just used for business meetings when not all people can attend in person.

I have been able to:

  • Attend religious services at the church to which I belong
  • Attend special religious events at other churches, to which I do not belong
  • Join in a meditation seminar
  • Attend several different national events for genealogical societies
  • Take part in a tour and question and answer session for a new arena being constructed in my area
  • Participate in a graduate level class at Georgetown University that is usually offered only on campus
  • Took an adult education class about 19th century England
  • Participate in an MS support circle hosted by a pharmaceutical company

 

Things I would have taken part in if my disability was not quite so bad as it is:

  • An at-home painting session with Muse Paintbar
  • Live-streamed adult classes with a local dance school, Garden City Dance Studio
  • Zoom classes with Silber’s Martial Arts

 

There are a lot more things and businesses and events out there that have devised ways to survive during the social distancing measures that became necessary.  I am aware of many such happenings that I have not listed here simply because my goal is not to provide an exhaustive list, but rather to address things that have impacted me, personally.

Most importantly, I hope many people now have at least a tiny bit of a taste of how it feels when, through no fault of your own, you are cut off from the world and the things you like to do, or need to do. I was ambulatory until all of a sudden ‘Bam’, I was not. Yes, I was walking with a cane or a walker, but I could stand up and walk a bit. I could get in and out of my vehicle.  At least I could manage well enough to go out. When that changed, it was devastating.

The limitations that have come with quarantine and social distancing have given people a little taste of that disconnect. I’m not exaggerating when I say that most people I talk to are incredibly frustrated already because of the restrictions. They are stressed, irritated, annoyed, disappointed, angry, sad.

People, it’s only been 5 ½ months. And during all that time you could at least go outside. Walk in the fresh air, sit in the sun, walk your dog, play outdoors with your kids. Go for a drive in the car. As things have gradually loosened up, your options have increased and increased.

I want to see the world get back to normal for very selfish reasons  … for my children. I hate that when they go out I have to say “Do you have a mask?” in just the same way my mother used to ask me if I had my house key. It saddens me that they are missing out on the standard routines of growing up. I doubt we will ever be 100% back to pre-pandemic type of normal. Life will get to a new normal though, and I will admit to certain selfish hopes about that.

I hope local religious organizations will still Livestream their services. I hope Broadway shows and concerts will offer broadcast tickets, so people can attend without being there physically. I hope when people think about inclusivity they will still think about ways to involve people who cannot physically be present, whatever the reason may be.

According to the most recent statistics I could find, about 2 million Americans, are homebound, meaning they rarely or never leave their house.   Of course, percentage-wise that’s a tiny bit of the overall American population. But when you compare it to the fact that they estimate 1.4 million Americans live in nursing homes, I think then the number seems much more significant.

I understand that successful businesses are constrained by issues such as ‘return on investment’, ‘economic feasibility’, ‘target audiences’, ‘ niche markets’ and ‘bottom line.’ In most cases the cost of making an event or happening of some type accessible to people at other locations digitally, (or by means of some type of broadcast), has already been incurred when setting up for their use during this pandemic. I think in many cases it would actually make good sense to continue their use even when not so much a requirement, because the equipment or technical cost has already been paid.

It seems likely to me that those efforts will fall by the wayside though, if people don’t really see the use for them after the legal requirements end. Remember that In addition to people like me who cannot physically attend or take part – despite how much they might want to do so, there are also many people who would do more if it was not so very difficult to do it. Those are other people not technically considered homebound, but whose lifestyle for a variety of reasons makes them live that way. They are also important.  I hope that as we return to the

new normal, many of the ways people are now included via distancing measures, will also become normal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *