Kerry Thompson is a Habinteg tenant and Insight Group member from Milton Keynes.
Like most people in the disabled community, I have not stopped shielding throughout this pandemic. Amongst the unforgettable tragedies there have been, there are also valuable lessons that hopefully won’t be lost or forgotten as we start to move forward.
It's important to remember that the 14.1 million disabled people living in the UK have been adapting their lives for many years now, already facing restrictions, health anxieties and challenges. It's just a part of everyday life. Amongst all the challenges we face, I think we’re very good at finding the positives and learning to adapt very quickly.
In fact, you could go as far as saying a great deal can be learnt from the disabled community.
Lessons we can take
It turns out we’re capable of becoming more accessible; it just needed a pandemic for businesses to rethink how they could change operations to allow people to access their services more easily. Just like that, within weeks most businesses had found ways to operate remotely. For years disabled people have been requesting more inclusion and accessibility when it comes to working from home with the most common answer being, “it’s not feasible”.
Now, I’m not suggesting that every disabled person should work from home (I don’t want to presume that that would suit everybody). But having the option to be flexible could open up employment for many disabled people.
As we are unable to socialise in the traditional sense, technology has been a way of staying connected and reconnecting. Lockdown has given us weekly virtual quizzes, movie nights, video calls and family get-togethers that might have normally been a monthly or yearly thing before. We have also been able to access GP surgeries and hospital appointments virtually without leaving the comfort of our homes.
Even theatres, museums and art galleries have been streaming online, meaning that if you couldn’t access them before, you can now and at your own pace. We can’t ignore that this pandemic has afforded disabled people access to many organisations and services they didn’t have access to pre Covid-19.
We really are isolation pros
I may joke that I’m thankful for all the times I was grounded as a child (thanks mum!) and being disabled has given me the experience to get me through ‘shielding'. I think people now realise staying at home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!
Yet, for some disabled people, being confined to the house or even one room is everyday life. Unfortunately, being a wheelchair user in an inaccessible home also comes with an abundance of experience of being locked down at home. Over 400,000 wheelchair users are living in homes which are neither adapted nor accessible, according to Habinteg’s estimate. This means there are 400,000 disabled people who in many ways have been locked down before COVID-19 started, due to unsuitable housing.
Having a home that is accessible has been my lifeline as I’m sure it has for most people. My hope is that we can learn more about accessibility as a nation once we move on from this lockdown.
What lessons have you learnt?