In my home state of Pennsylvania, signs of the COVID-19 pandemic are finally fading away. Governor Wolf has lifted many of the restrictions, such as capacity limits in businesses and no seating at bars, meanwhile promising to lift the mask mandate once 70% of our population is fully vaccinated. Just today, the CDC announced they no longer recommend masks for people who are fully vaccinated. I get my own second shot May 26.
As things return to “normal,” I’ve been reflecting on changes that happened during the pandemic that are actually a good thing for people with disabilities. People like me.
I would love to see these new trends continue beyond pandemictimes:
- Working from home. OK, so I’m self-employed and I mostly work from home anyway, but I remember the days of having to go into an office, and I would have loved to have been able to do all those tasks in my own space, which is designed around my sitting disability. There are many other conditions where working from home is the better option for people (like my irritable bowel syndrome), and now we all have seen that, for many jobs, the exact same work gets accomplished! Also, comfy pants.
- Food delivery and “contactless” everything. This trend was heating up before COVID hit, but boy did the pandemic set it aflame. I can’t tell you how hard it can be sometimes to just get food when my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are acting up. Grocery delivery, online ordering with curbside pickup at restaurants and stores, restaurant delivery … these have all made life a lot easier. They’re also great options for people with mental health conditions such as anxiety.
- Social distancing. OK, I personally love (gentle) hugs, but I also love not having strangers crowding me in lines. That kind of thing makes me kind of wig out. Especially if they’re gum chewers (I have misophonia). Having strangers keep their distance in public is great for people who have autoimmune conditions and also some mental health conditions.
- Sanitizing everything. I like clean. And while I do not have a compromised immune system, several people I dearly love do.
- Online trainings and religious services. Gone are the days when I would totally miss church because my fibro was flaring. Now I simply curl up with my phone and watch it live on Facebook! Or, I can watch the recording later. Also, I’ve finally attended some trainings as a public official because I don’t have to be in a space where I’m forced to sit in a chair for hours. Good access means having more options for people with a range of disabilities and restrictions.
- Time off for medical care. You know how some businesses allow employees time off for not just getting the vaccine, but for recovering from the vaccine? Yeah, that should be a thing for people getting any type of treatment that helps them stay healthy.
- Equal access to medical care. And that thing where vaccines are free for everyone? This really needs to happen regarding any treatment that prevents people from dying, including dying from suicide.
- Conversation about access. Making sure everyone had access to the vaccine was a buzzing topic there for a while, especially making sure people from marginalized populations weren’t left out. Let’s keep talking about this for all essential services.
- Conversation about illness, mental health, and disability. I bet a lot of people learned what “immunocompromised” means and what a big deal it is to have “underlying conditions.” Chronic illness and invisible disabilities are being talked about more and more. So is mental health. Let’s keep it up.
- Rescue pets. Oh I hope people do keep their rescue pets. What a miracle that shelters were cleared out during the pandemic.
- Eyes wide open. Able-bodied people have gone through some very disabling things this past year, such as fearing illness or not being able to attend events. I hope everyone remembers what it was like, and holds these memories up for those of us who will continue to live a disabled life, with all its emotions and losses, forever.