In it together?

Illustration of a lady with red hair, a blue top and a purple skirt. Her arms are bound and a chain wraps around her body

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and this year it focuses on the leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.

According to the WHO it’s likely that everyone, yes EVERYONE, will at some point experience a disability of some kind, whether permanent or temporary, so what I have to say will apply to you at some point. 

I feel like a stuck record but there’s a reason for that – society isn’t listening. Everytime I leave the house I battle with obstacles and people illegally parking in disabled spaces. I’ve been called names and mocked in public because of my disability.

Imagine heading to your local shops to be told you can’t enter? Yet we find excuses for why refusing entry to people using wheelchairs is okay

Even the word disability suggests we’re less able than our peers. Most of that disability is societal though – from inaccessibility and inequality and a lack of willingness to change.

I dream of a world where we won’t go down a street to find 90% of buildings are inaccessible all because of a single damn step. Yes, a single step. Imagine heading to your local shops to be told you can’t enter? Yet we find excuses for why refusing entry to people using wheelchairs is okay: It’s too expensive to make the building accessible, the building is too old, too historically important. But what’s more important than equality?

I dream of a world where developing a disability won’t mean a descent into poverty, as it currently does for many. I dream of living in a system that doesn’t punish people for getting ill and take more money from them in the process. 

Persons with disabilities are also disproportionately affected by Covid. Many people on immunosuppressants aren’t fully protected by the vaccine. As more of the world returns to normal we have to restrict our movements further to stay safe. 50% of people in hospital with Covid have an underlying condition, most commonly immune suppression. We can catch Covid off everyone whether those people are vaccinated or not.

To think that other people might understand how hard isolation is, isolation that is forced on many people with disabilities because the world simply is not accessible.

It was nice for a while to be a part of society when we were all in lockdown. To feel a part of the world. To think that other people might understand how hard isolation is, isolation that is forced on many people with disabilities because the world simply is not accessible.

We’re in it together, they said. And I felt it. For the first time since getting a disability I felt a part of society. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t access the local shop, café, bar and cinema in my wheelchair because we were all now forced to stay home. It didn’t matter that my trips to the supermarket were carefully planned out because all of us were living the same reality. We were all in it together…

Until we weren’t. 

I don’t want to stay silent on this anymore. I honestly can’t understand how we are so happy to sit by and accept that one group in society must always be excluded and isolated simply because we can’t be bothered with the small changes required to make our world inclusive.

Will you be bothered? Or will you wait until you or a loved one is disabled before you’ll join us?

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